Washington — A California man who prosecutors described as “one of the most violent defendants on January 6, 2021” was sentenced to 151 months — about 12 ½ years — in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to violent and obstructive conduct during the Capitol riot.
Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez admitted as part of a plea agreement in February that he attacked former Washington, D.C. police officer Michael Fanone with a taser, causing him to lose consciousness, and that he worked to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Rodriguez will also have to pay $96,000 to cover medical treatment for Fanone.
Requesting a longer sentence of 14 years in prison, prosecutors said Rodriguez administered a group chat in which he and a co-defendant discussed battles and operations in Washington, D.C., before then-President Donald Trump announced his Jan. 6 rally and later planned their trip to the nation’s capital after Trump sent a tweet saying the day would “be wild.”
The defense attorneys said Rodriguez is “remorseful” for his actions and even wrote a letter to Fanone in which he called the former police officer “a brave man.”
“I am looking at serving a long prison sentence and no letter I write is getting me out of that. Sir, I only want to apologize from the heart,” Rodriguez wrote to Fanone. “I got carried away and have never been through something like that, that made me out of my mind. I wish I was smarter. I should have protected you because I have deep respect for law enforcement, and I have always stood up for police officers.”
“Rodriguez believed the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen, and those responsible should be in prison or dead,” attorneys at the Justice Department wrote in their pre-sentencing court filings, “And this mistaken belief gave him the authority, in his mind, to plan an assault on anyone who stood in his way.”
He admitted in his plea agreement that on December 29, 2020, he posted in the group chat, “Congress can Hang. I’ll do it. Please let us get these people dear God,” court records revealed.
Days later, Rodriguez and his codefendant, Edward Badalian, traveled from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., where they attended Trump’s rally before marching to the grounds of the Capitol. Badalian was found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding earlier this year. A federal judge dismissed one count against him.
”There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution,” Rodriguez messaged on the eve of the assault.
Once at the Capitol, according to prosecutors, Rodriguez made his way to a tunnel at the building’s lower west terrace — where some of the most violence attacks against police occurred — and discharged a fire extinguisher at officers. Another alleged rioter then handed him a taser and, after minutes of intense fighting, investigators allege the mob pulled Fanone from the police line and into the crowd.
“Rodriguez moved through the crowd, towards the captured officer. With his electroshock weapon in hand, Rodriguez reached his arm towards the side of Officer Fanone’s neck, landing the device on the side of Officer Fanone’s neck, below the left ear of Officer Fanone’s helmet,” prosecutors said in court filings, “Despite Officer Fanone’s efforts to get away, Rodriguez struck again, placing the electroshock weapon on the back of Officer Fanone’s neck.”
The defendant later entered the Capitol and tried to use a wooden plank to break an office window from the inside.
“OMG I did so much f***ing s***,” Rodriguez wrote after the breach, according to his plea agreement, “Tazzed the f*** out of the blue.”
Prosecutors argued there was “ample” evidence that proved Rodriguez worked specifically to obstruct Congress’ work that day. “Rodriguez stands convicted of actually using violence against a police officer who was defending the seat of the government while the peaceful transfer of power was occurring,” they wrote.
But his defense attorney laid blame for the riot and Rodriguez’s conduct on Trump, arguing in pre-sentencing filings that his client “believed the former President’s lies and manipulation, just as thousands of others did when they gathered at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, with the understanding they were there on behalf of the President of the United States to protect their government.”