A Cleveland, Tennessee, man convicted in May of pushing through barricades and hurling a flagpole at police at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, could get more than 14 years in federal prison if the sentence sought by prosecutors is ordered at his hearing next week in Washington.
Joseph Lino "Jose" Padilla, 43, was convicted May 3 on 10 of 11 counts during a bench trial before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. Bates will sentence Padilla on Wednesday.
Sentencing memorandums filed this week by U.S. government prosecutors and Padilla's lawyer, Michael Cronkright, argue the appropriate length of the Cleveland man's sentence. Padilla has remained in federal custody since his arrest Feb. 23, 2021. He pleaded not guilty to charges March 30, 2021.
Eight of the 10 counts in Padilla's conviction are felonies. Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and assistant attorneys Doug Brasher and Andrew Haag requested a 171-month prison sentence followed by three years of supervised release, $2,000 in restitution and a mandated special assessment of $820, the memorandum states.
The prosecution says the sentence is appropriate because Padilla assaulted two police officers defending the U.S. Capitol, including striking one with a dangerous weapon, their memo states.
Padilla stated multiple times before, during and after the riot that he wanted to overthrow American democracy, the memo states.
Prosecutors also say he lied under oath about his motive for throwing a flagpole at the head of an officer and about his desire to violently overthrow Congress, claiming in court he wanted to use lawful processes to challenge the 2020 presidential election.
The memo also notes he weakened the police line at the Capitol by joining with other rioters in bringing a large metal banner to the police line, and he brought a pair of goggles and a mask to protect himself against riot control measures.
The sentence requested also takes into account Padilla's "utter lack of remorse" and the need for the sentence to deter Padilla and others from similar conduct, prosecutors said.
Sentence of more than 14 years sought for Cleveland, Tenn., man convicted in Jan. 6 Capitol breach case
Padilla, in the memorandum filed by Cronkright, argues for a nonspecific sentence that is reduced in consideration of his "horrific upbringing" as a child, the anticipated impact on his wife and six children in Cleveland from his incarceration, and his otherwise clear criminal record. Padilla is eager to explain his remorse at the sentencing hearing, Cronkright also states.
"Mr. Padilla's childhood is disturbingly dysfunctional," Cronkright wrote in his memorandum.
Padilla's father, Robin Padilla, died in prison in 2019, the memorandum states, having been incarcerated for child sex abuse linked to acts that didn't directly involve Padilla but happened during his childhood years. Padilla's mother, Ramona Padilla, died from a heart attack at 55 and had a history of drug abuse and addiction, adding another blow to the young Padilla.
"Mr. Padilla has lived an exemplary life despite his troubled upbringing," Cronkright states. "His conduct on Jan. 6 was not typical of his life pattern. His own family bears witness to this fact. They have struggled to make sense of his actions."
In their memorandums, both sides pointed to previous Jan. 6 cases where hefty or lighter sentences were handed down under what the lawyers contended were similar circumstances and charges.
In a breach case sentencing hearing before Bates on Thursday, Sean Michael McHugh, of Auburn, California, was sentenced to 78 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release. Bates ordered McHugh to pay $2,000 restitution and a $5,000 fine. The government's memorandum in that case had requested 123 months of imprisonment, 36 months of supervised release, $2,000 in restitution, a fine of $73,000, and a mandatory special assessment of $200.
In another defendant's sentencing before a different judge in May on the same assault charge conviction as Padilla's — using a deadly weapon — Pennsylvania resident Peter J. Schwartz was sentenced to 170 months in prison, according to Jan. 6 conviction records and news releases from federal prosecutors. Unlike Padilla's single-count conviction on that charge, however, Schwartz was convicted at trial of four counts of assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers using a dangerous weapon, among the 11 counts on which he was found guilty.
According to trial testimony in May, Padilla in January 2021 was a stay-at-home dad, living with his wife of 18 years and children in Cleveland. Padilla served in the Army National Guard for about 11 years, including time in Iraq as a signal support systems specialist. He was honorably discharged in October 2012, according to testimony. Padilla testified he has a 100% disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder, but he said it had no effect on his ability to testify in court.
In his trial in May, Padilla testified he attended then-President Donald Trump's rally the morning of Jan. 6 because it was something new.
"President Trump had tweeted out that there was going to be a rally," Padilla testified in May under questioning by Cronkright. "I had never been to a Trump rally, and I thought it might be his last rally, so I decided to attend. I thought I'd most likely be at the rally talking to people, swinging flags, chanting, singing, listening to a lot of speakers."
Padilla had seen online there would be some protests after Trump spoke, and the Cleveland man planned to go to those as well, he testified.
Padilla threw the flagpole in question at another protester he had seen with an ax handle earlier in the day, he said. Padilla thought the man was going to use it on an officer, he said, but Bates said he didn't believe Padilla when he delivered his verdict on that felony, the most serious Padilla faced.
Prosecutors contended at trial and in the memorandum that Padilla as a military veteran with law enforcement experience as a correctional officer knew what he was doing was wrong, bragged on the internet about his deeds, and his conduct before and after the riot showed his disregard for his military oath to protect the Constitution and the United States.
Padilla's sentencing hearing is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday.