5 Capitol riot defendants who led “first breach” on Jan. 6 found guilty at trial

Washington — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Friday handed down a series of guilty verdicts in one of the first and highest-level prosecutions stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Jia Cobb found Ryan Samsel of Pennsylvania and four co-defendants — James Grant, Paul Johnson, Stephen Randolph and Jason Blythe — guilty on a range of charges related to the Capitol siege, including assaulting police. 

The five men were accused by federal prosecutors of leading “the first breach” and “initial attack” on the Capitol on Jan. 6, when a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to thwart the transfer of power. The group on trial was accused of forcefully removing a police barricade as the mob converged on Capitol grounds. 

Prosecutors said Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, one of the first who tried to stop the group, was hit in the face a bike rack. The impact, they said, “threw her back and caused her to slam her head twice: first against a metal handrail, then against the stairs. She lost consciousness and suffered a concussion.”

Edwards testified at trial against the five defendants. In June 2022, she gave memorable testimony before the House Jan. 6 select committee, where she described the attack as akin to a “war scene.”

“It was something like I had seen out of the movies. I could not believe my eyes. There were officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood. I was catching people as they fell,” she told lawmakers. “It was carnage. It was chaos.” 

Caroline Edwards, a U.S. Capitol Police officer injured in the Jan. 6 riot, testifies before the House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday, June 9, 2022.
Caroline Edwards, a U.S. Capitol Police officer injured in the Jan. 6 riot, testifies before the House Jan. 6 committee on Thursday, June 9, 2022.  Bloomberg

Samsel and Randolph were found guilty of assaulting Edwards and a range of other charges, including civil disorder. They were found not guilty on other counts.

Blythe, Johnson and Grant were found guilty of assaulting a different officer and other felonies, and acquitted in the assault on Edwards.

The five men are scheduled to be sentenced on June 13. Edwards is also expected to speak at the sentencing hearing.

Samsel and Grant are being held in pretrial detention. Prosecutors asked Cobb to send the other three defendants to jail pending sentencing. Cobb said she would review arguments on the matter next week.

In their prosecution of the five men, Justice Department attorneys argued, “Despite police efforts to disperse the crowd and defend the Capitol, these five defendants continued to fuel the riot by assaulting other officers.” 

The Justice Department said: “Samsel’s additional assaultive and destructive conduct included grabbing the riot shield of a law enforcement officer while rioters were attempting to overtake police and penetrate into the Capitol building; tearing through the tarp in the scaffolding on the Capitol grounds; throwing a pole at officers; and taking a 2×4 plank of wood from the scaffolding and throwing it at a group of Metropolitan Police Department officers as they struggled to maintain the police line against the attacking mob.”

Samsel’s case was among the first wave of prosecutions brought in the days after the Jan. 6 attack.

“The entire world heard first hand from now-Sergeant Caroline Edwards about the bloody and vicious assault by Ryan Samsel and others during their attack on the Capitol during the January 6th Select Committee’s first primetime hearing,” said Hannah Muldavin, a former spokesperson for the Jan. 6 committee. “All those that were involved in the attempt to overthrow our democracy, from Donald Trump all the way down to those that helped injure more than 140 police officers, must be held accountable for their actions.”

Original CBS News Link</a