Marine veteran sentenced to prison for his involvement in breaching the Capitol building in 2021

Image from video from police-worn body camera John George Todd III in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (Justice Department)

Judy L. Thomas
The Kansas City Star
(TNS)

A Blue Springs Marine Corps veteran convicted of injuring an officer during the Capitol riot was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

John George Todd III, 34, chose not to address the court before his sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell. The sentencing hearing was held in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Todd is the 26th of the 37 Missouri residents charged in Capitol riot cases to be sentenced. Five other Missouri defendants have been convicted and await sentencing, and the cases of another six are pending.

The government had recommended a sentence of 12 years and seven months’ incarceration. Todd’s attorneys asked that he receive two years’ probation with weekly counseling classes, saying he suffers from PTSD and other mental health issues, some stemming from his military service. He needs treatment, they said, not prison.

Todd, who faced six charges in connection with the Capitol breach, was convicted in February after a five-day trial. On the third day of deliberations, the jury found him guilty on all six counts. He has been in custody in the D.C. Jail since his conviction.

In a sentencing memorandum filed May 17, the government said that on Jan. 6, 2021, Todd was upset that Donald Trump would not be sworn into office. He attended the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally, then walked from the Ellipse to the Capitol, carrying a fiberglass tent pole with a flag tied to the end, the document said.

“Frustrated that the former President and his supporters had ‘exhausted every f—— legal route,’ Todd was hellbent on disrupting the certification by illegal means, including by taking part in a violent riot and assaulting police officers who were trying to protect the Capitol building and members of Congress,” the document said.

After spending almost an hour on restricted Capitol grounds and ignoring warning signs to leave the area, it said, Todd entered the building through the Upper West Terrace Door at about 2:44 p.m. He repeatedly pushed against officers inside the Rotunda between 3:10 p.m. and 3:17 p.m., the memorandum said, telling them, “I ain’t f—— moving.”

“Todd was instructed to leave multiple times, and in body worn camera footage (“BWC”) obtained from the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) Todd was recorded yelling at law enforcement officers, ‘I swear to God, I’ll hip toss your ass into the f——’ crowd, mother f——!’”

MPD Officer Noah Rathbun, who was trying to clear the Rotunda, thought Todd was about to strike someone with the tent pole he was carrying, the document said, and tried to take it from him.

Todd and Rathbun pushed back and forth to gain control of the pole, it said. As they wrestled over the pole, it splintered.

“When the pole splintered, the officer and Todd both saw the splintered fiberglass, and Todd ripped the splintered pole out of Officer Rathbun’s hands,” the sentencing memorandum said. “This pulling sliced the officer’s hand open at the knuckle. The cut was deep and exposed a tendon in his finger, requiring medical attention and stitches.”

Rathbun received seven stitches and missed nine days of work, costing MPD approximately $4,514.68, the government said.

Officers forced Todd out of the Capitol at 3:18 p.m., the sentencing document said. He moved to the Northwest Terrace, where for the next hour he interacted with the crowd and banged against police shields, yelling at officers, “Come on, drop your s—! Let’s go right now.”

“By 4:50 p.m., the memorandum said, Todd had moved toward the Lower West Tunnel, where police had engaged in a violent, hourslong physical conflict with the rioters.

“Todd leaned off railings and watched rioters attacking officers with plywood and bear spray,” the document said, “as other rioters on megaphones called for the crowd to pass up their gas masks and helmets so that the people at the front could continue their siege on the officers in the tunnel.”

Todd eventually left the Capitol and headed west toward the National Mall, it said, where he gave a video interview to a journalist.

The government said Todd had a criminal history that included alcohol and drug-related convictions, and he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the military that appeared to be the result of alcohol abuse.

There also had been “numerous serious interactions” between Todd and law enforcement during his Jan. 6 case, the document said.

In an incident in April 2023, it said, Todd was identified climbing up the side of a building with razor blades and knives, attempting to enter the home of a man who was romantically involved with his ex-wife. After that, a magistrate judge ordered Todd to move to South Carolina, where he would be under the care of his sister and take part in a high-intensity supervision program.

Todd has shown no remorse for his actions on Jan. 6, the government said.

“Instead, he has remained adamant that a law enforcement officer allowed him to come into the Capitol (a claim demonstrably proven to be false) and denied any responsibility for Officer Rathbun’s injury,” the document said. “Todd repeatedly provided materially false testimony at trial.”

Todd was originally charged May 3, 2022, with four misdemeanors: entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

He twice declined offers to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor. Instead, he opted to take his case to trial. In preparing for the trial, the government found additional video that it said showed Todd assaulting Rathbun.

A federal grand jury then indicted Todd on two felony charges — inflicting bodily injury on an officer and obstruction of an official proceeding — along with the misdemeanors. The trial jury found him guilty on Feb. 7.

Todd’s defense attorneys, led by John Pierce — who has represented more than 20 Capitol riot defendants, including “QAnon Shaman” Jacob Chansley — argued that Todd had no idea he wasn’t supposed to be in the Capitol that day. Because of his lack of intent, they said, he was innocent of the charges that he had disrupted the certification of the 2020 election and was in a restricted space. They also said the cut on Rathbun’s hand was minor and self-inflicted.

“The government seeks to turn two misdemeanor counts into 10-year felonies upon an imaginary notion that Todd’s tiny flag with its fiberglass flagpole was a ‘dangerous weapon,’” his attorneys wrote in his May 19 sentencing memorandum.

They said Todd was “an honorable veteran” who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2009 to 2013 and had committed no violent offenses within the past 10 years.

“Throughout his life, Defendant has endured extensive trauma,” the document said. “… Since serving the United States, Defendant has battled with PTSD, military related sexual trauma, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, incarceration will only further Defendant’s trauma whereas rehabilitation and therapy will mend Defendant’s devastating past.”

Todd’s sentence, the document said, “should be consistent with that of other protestors convicted of political demonstration activity at the Capitol or other federal buildings nationwide.”

“ … Unfortunately, sentences handed down in the District of DC in ‘January 6’ cases have created gross sentencing disparities compared to similar defendants elsewhere,” it said. “January 6 sentences are the longest prison sentences in American history for rioters or defendants involved in political demonstrations.”

On Thursday, Todd’s attorneys filed notes of support from friends and relatives asking the judge for leniency. They called him a caring man and loving father who had an abusive childhood and struggled with mental illness.

“What I have seen in John is a man that has given his life to serving the Lord in the midst of trials that he has faced,” wrote Mitch Trammel, pastor of the Riding for Jesus Cowboy Church in Pacolet, South Carolina.

“ … In what I have seen from John is a young man that served his country with pride and dignity. I also see in him as having a helpful personality willing to help his friends, neighbors, and even strangers in time of need.”

©2024 The Kansas City Star. Visit kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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