A Pennsylvania man who threw a folding chair at law enforcement and repeatedly used pepper spray on police during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was sentenced Friday to more than 14 years in prison – the longest of any January 6 defendant so far.
Peter Schwartz, 49, was found guilty on 10 charges in December 2022 during a jury trial, including four felony charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon. Schwartz’s prior criminal history of 38 felony convictions dating to 1991 was a significant factor behind his sentence.
“Mr. Schwartz, dare I say, there are not many people who have come to this court with a criminal history like yours,” District Judge Amit Mehta said during a sentencing hearing on Friday.
On January 6, 2021, prosecutors allege that Schwartz thew the first folding chair at police that opened the police line and enabled hundreds of rioters to impede the officers.
Schwartz, according to prosecutors, found an abandoned Metropolitan Police Department-issued canister of pepper spray. He then used the irritant to spray officers, causing them to retreat and put on gas masks, and found a second can of pepper spray that he sprayed at officers, they said.
Schwartz was on probation during the time of the offenses, according to court documents. During his arrest, law enforcement found that he had at least one firearm in his possession at his residence in Pennsylvania. Schwartz has two prior convictions of possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony.
Schwartz expressed remorse during the hearing.
“I do sincerely regret the damage that January 6 has caused to so many people in their lives,” Schwartz said.
Mehta responded: “I appreciate you saying what you said today, but I don’t believe it.”
The judge told Schwartz he was being prosecuted not because of his political beliefs or because he was a “political prisoner,” but because he repeatedly broke the law on January 6.
“You were a solider against democracy,” Mehta said. “You took it upon yourself to try and injure multiple police officers.”
Former Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell made a victim impact statement during the hearing. Gonell spoke about the chaos he and his fellow officers experienced on January 6 and said that someone with a criminal history like Schwartz must be deterred from committing more violent crimes.
“I guess the last additional thing he needed to add to his pedigree, was assault of law enforcement officers,” Gonell said.
Before imposing the sentence, Mehta said: “It’s up to you whether you want to take responsibility for your actions. It’s up to you if you want to show remorse. You haven’t done either of them.”