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Fencing, erected after the Jan. 6 riot, is seen surrounding the Capitol building in Washington on July 9, 2021.

Fencing, erected after the Jan. 6 riot, is seen surrounding the Capitol building in Washington on July 9, 2021. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON — A Howard County man who discharged a fire extinguisher into a group of police officers trying to hold back the surging mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, while also exhorting rioters to press forward, was sentenced to 33 months in prison Monday by a federal judge in the District.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss to impose a term of 51 months on Matthew Ryan Miller, 23, of Cooksville, Md. That would have been equal to the second-highest term yet handed out for the Jan. 6 attack. Federal advisory sentencing guidelines called for a range of 41 to 51 months, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline N. Schesnol urged Moss to give Miller the high end of the range, saying, “Let’s ensure that Mr. Miller and others like him are deterred from committing attacks on democracy.”

Schesnol showed video and photos that depicted Miller, wearing a red Washington Capitals jersey, hurling a beer can and batteries at police, then leading chants of “Heave ho!” as the crowd surged toward the Capitol’s lower West Terrace entrance. Then Miller could be seen aiming a fire extinguisher at Capitol and D.C. police and spraying it at them, creating a cloud in the terrace tunnel and forcing some officers to retreat. The mob could be heard cheering.

After Miller dropped the fire extinguisher, video showed that another man, Robert S. Palmer, picked it up and emptied it at the police, then hurled it at them. He received a sentence of 63 months, the longest term handed down so far for the Jan. 6 riot. Miller pleaded guilty in February to obstruction of an official proceeding, namely the certification of the electoral college vote.

Miller was 22 at the time of the attack. His lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, said Miller’s age and his intoxication — he drank 10 beers, some hard liquor and smoked some marijuana — clouded his judgment. Miller told the judge, “I’m ashamed to have been so swayed by my shortcomings, addictions and naivete. Sadly, I partook in some idiotic actions that have changed my life forever.”

Judge Moss said he was moved by Miller’s statement, as well as his age — “he was barely 22, his judgment was still developing” — the fact that he was “somewhat intoxicated” and that he behaved while on pretrial release. The judge went below the sentencing guidelines to 33 months and ordered Miller to serve two years on supervised release when his prison term ends.


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