“I just want to do whatever needs to be done to be legit,” Pruitt said.
He discussed protective gear and accommodations with other members of the group. Shortly after the riot, records show, his membership was approved.
Pruitt, 40, showed up at three key points in the Capitol on Jan. 6 wearing a “Punisher” tank top, including in the crypt, where he was photographed throwing a sign across the room and then came face to face with police. He was also photographed at the Capitol Visitors Center, where he threw a chair and confronted another group of rioters trying to gain access to the Capitol’s tunnel system.
Then, in the halls of the Capitol, he began approaching Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) as the senator was hustled out of the building. Schumer’s team turned him around and ran him in the opposite direction to Pruitt.
Pruitt never assaulted officers or made physical contact with staff. But on Monday, a federal judge sentenced him to 55 months in federal prison, followed by three years of probation. Pruitt pleaded guilty in June to obstruction of due process, and federal sentencing guidelines suggested a 51-63 month prison term, in part because he had a long criminal history, including assaults on police, possession of cocaine and drunk driving convictions.
“You were acting a bit in concert with others,” U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly told Pruitt, “engaged in planning to some degree with others. … You got into the building early, you penetrated deep into the building, you damaged property, you played a part in crowd amplification, you got close to one of our national leaders.
Pruitt, a father of a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old, said he was blacklisted for not working in DC’s restaurant business. “I’m not happy at all that January 6 happened,” he told the judge on Monday. “To be completely honest, I would have liked to watch it from a restaurant rather than participate in it. … Yes, I was wrong and I broke the laws, and I apologize for that.
But Pruitt also said, “I believed the election was stolen. I still do.”
A member of Schumer’s security team said he was haunted by the near-confrontation between the senator and Pruitt.
“I saw Mr. Pruitt approach us with intent to harm the U.S. Senate Majority Leader,” the special agent, identified by the initials ML, wrote in a victim impact statement. “It was only through our teams’ pre-planning of alternate evacuation procedures and quick actions that this impending meeting did not result in bloodshed or serious bodily injury.”
“I was within 30 feet of those nasty insurgents,” Schumer said during a hearing in January.
Pruitt worked as a DC bartender until November 2020, when he was filmed being inducted into the Proud Boys by President Enrique Tarrio after a pro-Trump rally. Pruitt later said members of the group protected him during one of several violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the former president. However, Pruitt was not a full member and sought to become one after first meeting Tarrio, as seen in texts of his conversations with other members.
Defense attorney Robert L. Jenkins pointed out that Pruitt “did not physically attack any law enforcement officer … did not directly cause bodily harm to any law enforcement officer” and “did not possess or use any weapon”.
In a conversation with other local Proud Boys on Jan. 5, 2021, Pruitt suggested he might distract police while others were fighting, according to the court filing. “Hit when they come first,” he said. “And then we got to work.”
Prosecutors say he fulfilled that role. “Well over a year later, he was remembered by many officers as an instigator,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum. His appearance was distinctive: a bodybuilder, Pruitt wore a tactical glove with padded knuckles and a tank top emblazoned with a comic book vigilante skull logo. Inside the Capitol, he threw down a sign and a chair.
An officer described Pruitt as “an agitator” who approached police and tried to shake them off.
“The defendant did this several times throughout my interaction, including telling me ‘you better stop looking at me,'” the officer said. reminded in his statement. “When the defendant found that his efforts were fruitless, he would then retreat into the larger crowd of protesters in search of another uniformed target to provoke.”
In media interviews after the riot, Pruitt said he had no idea the crowd would converge on the Capitol, although he had conversations about those plans in a local Proud group chat. Boys. He was also part of talks in which the Proud Boys were told not to wear their traditional colors of black and yellow in order to better blend in with the crowd.
The chat “included explicitly anti-Semitic and racist memes,” according to court records, with some anti-Jewish comments made by Pruitt himself. Jenkins said Pruitt did not post or see many anti-Semitic or racist messages.
Pruitt wrote that he was “going for blood” and excited for a violent confrontation.
“My chick (now ex) left me yesterday,” he wrote the Proud Boys group on Jan. 4. “An accumulated frustration ready to come out. It makes me even more dangerous.
Pruitt was arrested in December 2020, charged with breaching a protective order by threatening an ex-girlfriend; he was on probation and on bail at the time of the Capital Riot and was wearing an ankle monitor.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Pruitt’s membership in the Proud Boys was approved shortly before the January 6, 2021 riot. He was approved after. The article has been corrected.