Man Who Assaulted Six Officers on Jan. 6 Is Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

A Florida man was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison for assaulting at least six police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, including one officer who said that the attack had led him to retire early, the Justice Department announced.

Prosecutors described the man, Kenneth Bonawitz, 58, of Pompano Beach, Fla., in court papers as “one of the most violent January 6 rioters.” He was also sentenced to 36 months of supervised release following his time in prison and fined $2,000 by Judge Jia M. Cobb of U.S. District Court in Washington, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bonawitz, who was arrested in January 2023, pleaded guilty in August to three felony charges: civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors asked the judge in a memorandum to sentence Mr. Bonawitz to the maximum prison sentence of 71 months, just shy of six years. In the memo, they included victim impact statements from two of the officers who were assaulted.

Lawyers for Mr. Bonawitz could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday evening. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia declined to comment.

On Jan. 5, 2021, Mr. Bonawitz left his home and took an overnight bus to D.C. to attend President Trump’s rally, which was set to coincide with the certification by Congress of the results of the 2020 election, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bonawitz was a member of the Miami chapter of the far-right group the Proud Boys, according to prosecutors.

After the rally, Mr. Bonawitz formed part of a mob that swarmed the west front of the Capitol building, prosecutors said. Just before 2:30 p.m., they said, he was among the surge of rioters who overran a police line in front of the West Plaza.

Mr. Bonawitz stormed the stage that had been built for the upcoming presidential inauguration, according to court records.

“He then ran the length of the stage, raised his arms, threw himself into the air as the stage ended, and used his outstretched arms” to tackle two U.S. Capitol Police officers who were standing at the base of a set of stairs, prosecutors said in the sentencing memo.

One of the officers, Sgt. Federico A. Ruiz, said he had seen Mr. Bonawitz “jumping up and down” on the stage “with a smile on his face, like he was on top of the world.”

“His demeanor and his behavior struck me as someone who was enjoying himself that day,” Sergeant Ruiz wrote in a victim impact statement. In it, he explained that Mr. Bonawitz’s attack had left him with injuries and emotional trauma that recently forced him to retire early.

Sergeant Ruiz and other officers tangled with Mr. Bonawitz, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds, before confiscating an eight-inch knife he had sheathed on his hip, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bonawitz then charged at another group of officers who were trying to re-establish a police line.

“In the span of 10 seconds, Bonawitz assaulted four officers by shoving, pushing, and punching them, as well as by placing one officer in a chokehold and lifting her off the ground,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memo.

Mr. Bonawitz did not stop his attacks until officers sprayed a chemical agent on his face, prosecutors said.

Shortly after Mr. Bonawitz was sprayed, he was interviewed on videotape and gave an account of what happened, prosecutors said. A reporter asked for his name and provenance, and he responded: “Ken Bonawitz, Florida.”

The authorities have so far charged more than 1,265 who participated in the breach of the Capitol, according to the Justice Department. Just over a third of those, 440, were charged with “assaulting or impeding” law enforcement. The most common charge has been entering or remaining on restricted federal grounds. More than 720 people have either pleaded guilty or convicted. Their sentences have ranged from just days in jail to over 20 years in prison.

In his victim impact statement, Sergeant Ruiz drew a comparison between his experience on Jan. 6 and that on Sept. 11, 2001, as an emergency medical worker at the Pentagon.

“I did not fear for my life then as much as I did on Jan. 6, when my fellow Americans turned on me and attacked me like I was an enemy,” he wrote.

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