Riot in the Capitol: Man behind Molotov truck gets four years

An Alabama man who parked a pickup truck filled with guns and Molotov cocktail components near the US Capitol on the day of last year’s riots was sentenced Friday to almost four years in prison.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she still hasn’t heard an explanation as to why Lonnie Leroy Coffman “almost had a little armory in his truck, ready to fight.” She sentenced Coffman to three years and 10 months in prison, paying tribute to more than a year he had already served since his arrest.

Coffman, 72, of Falkville, Alabama, said he never intended to hurt anyone or destroy property. He said he went to Washington alone “to find out how true and safe the 2020 presidential election was.”

“If I had known things were going to be like this, I would have stayed at home,” he wrote in a handwritten letter to the judge.

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riots, as supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump stormed the building to disrupt lawmakers’ formal confirmation of his re-election defeat. Five people died and scores of Capitol Police officers were seriously injured.

More than 240 people involved in the attack have pleaded guilty, mostly to crimes punishable by up to six months in prison. More than 130 were convicted. Coffman is one of nine defendants serving more than a year in prison.

Coffman, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the US Army, pleaded guilty in November to possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying a handgun without a license. He was carrying a loaded pistol and a revolver without a license while walking in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021, according to prosecutors. He is not charged with entering the Capitol or joining the mob during the riot that day.

When Coffman parked his truck a few blocks from the Capitol on the morning of January 6, it contained a handgun, a rifle, a shotgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a crossbow, machetes, a stun gun, and a cooler containing eleven perforated Mason jars in the lids, according to prosecutors. Each jar contained a mixture of gasoline and Styrofoam, which are ingredients in home-made incendiary devices called Molotov cocktails, prosecutors said.

Police officers found the arms and ammunition cache when they searched Coffman’s truck. They had swept the area after pipe bombs were found near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Investigators later also found Molotov cocktail components at Coffman’s home in Alabama.

“The possession of so many dangerous weapons in our nation’s capital is a unique assault on our cherished democratic political traditions,” said US Assistant Attorney Michael Friedman.

Handwritten notes found in the vehicle included a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln that said: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men.” who pervert the constitution.”

The notes included a list of “good guys” and “bad guys,” naming a federal judge in the latter category, and contact information for a member of a Texas militia group known as the “American Patriots,” prosecutors said.

“The handwritten notes also included an address for a reported gathering place in Texas called ‘Camp Lonestar,’ where militia groups had reportedly attempted to patrol the border looking for illegal aliens,” prosecutors wrote.

According to prosecutors, investigators had previously identified Coffman as an armed participant at Camp Lonestar.

Coffman, a retired machine operator, traveled to Washington in December 2020 and attempted to drive to the home of a US senator who is not named in a prosecutor’s court filing. He also called the senator’s office to “help with the voter fraud he saw.”

“A staffer at the senator’s office recorded that the defendant appeared ‘unbalanced’ or ‘not 100% there’ during the call, but did not appear threatening,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of approximately three years and six months. Defense attorney Manuel Retureta said a prison sentence was not appropriate given Coffman’s age and health.

Coffman had no criminal record prior to this case.

“At my age, time is one of the most precious (things) we possess, and I’ve wasted almost a whole precious year,” he wrote in his letter to the judge.

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