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Rioters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Rioters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Federal prosecutors will seek jail time for two Virginia Beach brothers when they’re sentenced this week for their role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Eric Von Bernewitz, 47, a broker who supplies furniture for government offices and military barracks, and his brother, Paul Von Bernewitz, 51, a restaurant server, are scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Both pleaded guilty in January to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Prosecutors plan to ask U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper to sentence Eric Von Bernewitz to 14 days, and Paul Von Bernewitz to 45 days, according to documents filed last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Mitchell wrote in a document filed last week that the pair should spend time behind bars because several videos recorded that day show they were part of the crowd that initially breached the metal barriers surrounding the Capitol, and were close by when others violently pushed past police and broke windows to get inside.

Mitchell wrote that Paul Von Bernewitz deserves more time because he was more actively involved with the rioters and helped push the crowd forward while his brother stood back. Paul Von Bernewitz also has several convictions on his record for alcohol-related offenses and assaults, he said.

One video shows Paul and Eric Von Bernewitz moving quickly toward a police line and getting within yards of it, Mitchell wrote. Paul Von Bernewitz is also seen with dozens of others pushing those in front of them to break through the line.

Yet in their interviews with the FBI at the time of their arrest, the brothers minimized their roles, as well as the behavior of the rioters, Mitchell wrote. Paul Von Bernewitz referred to the crowd as “peaceful” and “nice,” and compared it to a mosh pit at a rock concert.

The brothers claimed they were forced into the building by the crowd, and were unable to turn back, while the videos showed otherwise, the prosecutor said.

Paul Von Bernewitz’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Andrew Grindrod, described his client as “a good guy who sometimes gets caught up in the moment” in a sentencing position paper filed last week. Grindrod argued that a term of three days would be fair.

Paul Von Bernewitz is not as political as his brother, Grindrod wrote, but agreed at the last moment to go with him to a political rally for President Donald Trump near the Capitol that day. He later told investigators he regretted his actions.

“He did not attend as a member of any organization or group,” Grindrod wrote. “Paul barely has Facebook and struggles to use his cellphone correctly... He was not a radical activist on a mission to interfere with government operations. He was a big brother tagging along to be a good sport.”

Eric Von Bernewitz’s lawyer, Austin Manghan, asked the judge in his court filings to consider his client’s physical disability and the impact the charges have had on his career. Manghan wrote that he believed a fine would be a sufficient punishment.

Eric Von Bernewitz was hit by a car when he was in the eighth grade and his right arm is paralyzed as a result. He isn’t allowed on military bases because of his involvement in the riot, which has severely damaged his business, and his efforts to travel with his son to wrestling matches also have been hindered by the charges.

Mitchell wrote that Eric Von Bernewitz shared various conspiracy messages with others in the days leading up to the riot and afterward, saying “[e]verything is playing out exactly how Q has told us it would play out.” “Q” apparently refers to QAnon, a political movement focused on claims made by an anonymous person or persons known as Q.

Eric Von Bernewitz also shared beliefs about mass assassinations, secret indictments, and said “Biden, Pence and others” were already secretly arrested, Mitchell wrote. His messages also claimed that JFK Jr. was alive and would be the next president.


©2022 The Virginian-Pilot.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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