A Washington, D.C. man who joined the Proud Boys in the weeks after the 2020 election and heeded the group’s call to go to the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 was sentenced Monday to 55 months in prison for obstructing the joint session of Congress.
Federal prosecutors said Joshua Pruitt, 40, came into contact with now-Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, who was being escorted to safety by his security team, during the attack.
“You were at the forefront of that mob,” Judge Timothy Kelly said before handing down his sentence Monday, adding that Pruitt and the mob’s actions that day “snapped our previously unbroken tradition of the peaceful transition of power.”
During the attack, Pruitt was one of the first of the mob to enter several areas of the Capitol and destroyed a large sign in the building, throwing it across a room, which prosecutors argued was meant to stir up the mob inside.
Pruitt was one of only a handful of rioters who came face-to-face with a member of Congress – in Pruitt’s case, Sen. Schumer, whose security detail immediately rerouted the senator’s evacuation after seeing Pruitt in the Capitol Visitor’s Center.
“One look at Pruitt, and the leader of Senator Schumer’s security detail immediately saw the threat and hustled the 70-year-old Senator down a hallway, having to change their evacuation route on a dime,” assistant U.S. attorney Alexis Loeb wrote in her sentencing memo. “As the leader of the security detail later told the FBI, when he saw Pruitt coming toward them, only seconds from reaching Senator Schumer, it was harrowing – a moment, he told the FBI, he would never forget.”
Pruitt was one of a relatively small number of rioters arrested on Jan. 6 itself for violating D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s curfew order. He was indicted on eight counts on Jan. 27, 2021, and pleaded guilty in June of this year to one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Pruitt said that he apologized for his actions and that he was “not happy that Jan. 6 happened at all,” but he said he still held onto his beliefs that Donald Trump actually won the election, which he lost to President Joe Biden. “I did believe the election was stolen. I still do,” Pruitt said.
“I broke the law, bottom line, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong on my feelings,” Pruitt said.
Though Pruitt was not charged with other Proud Boys now under indictment for seditious conspiracy, his case carries implications for future prosecutions of members of the group. The encrypted messages recovered from the Proud Boys chat via Pruitt’s phone are among the most direct evidence of pre-planning published in court filings so far.