An Ohio man who repeatedly attacked police officers as he joined a crowd of Donald Trump supporters in Assault on the US Capitol He was sentenced Thursday to nearly five years in prison.
Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas has acted as a “one-man disinformation machine” since the January 6, 2021 riots, using his social media platforms to spread false narratives about the attack, according to federal prosecutors. They say Thomas produces more than 20 hours of online content related to January 6 each week.
“The main message that Thomas tries to convey throughout all of his appearances is ‘January 6 was a trap,’ words that are emblazoned front and center on the website’s home page and the ‘brand’ he created after his arrest.” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Thomas, 41, of East Liverpool, Ohio, to four years and 10 months in prison, according to online court records. The judge also ordered him to pay a $20,000 fine and $2,000 in restitution.
Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of nine years and one month and requested a fine of $77,607. Thomas, they say, has raised at least that much money on online forums, including a website called “Help Joseph Thomas Let Freedom Sing.”
Thomas was arrested in Huntsville, Alabama, in May 2021. In June 2023, a jury in Washington, DC convicted Thomas on charges of assault and other crimes. Jurors also acquitted him on two counts, including obstruction of a congressional proceeding, and deadlocked on two other counts.
Thomas’ attorneys said he is “brutally aware of the seriousness of his conduct” on Jan. 6 and takes “full and complete responsibility for his actions.”
“None of the officers contacted by Mr. Thomas on January 6 reported any physical pain or injuries attributed to Mr. Thomas. In fact, at least one of the officers openly admitted under oath in open court that he did not even remember Mr. Thomas at all.” defense attorneys wrote.
More than 100 police officers were injured at the Capitol, where the mob temporarily prevented Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump.
Thomas attended Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House with his wife and daughter, but left them behind as he marched to the Capitol.
Thomas physically and verbally attacked police lines and urged other rioters to “hold the line” with him, prosecutors said. He also repeatedly shouted at police to “stand down” and joined in a chant calling them “traitors.”
Police body camera video captured Thomas charging into a line of officers in riot gear, shoving an officer who pushed him down a series of steps.
“Undeterred by having been rejected once, Thomas waved his arms again and sprinted up the stairs a second time,” prosecutors wrote.
The video shows him pushing another officer’s chest. Over the next hour, he continued to harass and fend off officers who were trying to clear the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace, prosecutors said.
A police officer who testified at Thomas’ trial said the rioters turned their backs on police, linked arms and collectively pushed against the line of officers.
“When we were trying to push, I remember they pushed me so hard that it felt like my lungs were going to sink. I felt like they couldn’t expand. “I couldn’t breathe,” the officer said, according to prosecutors.
Thomas appeared to be livestreaming video while attacking police, according to prosecutors.
“Despite Thomas’s persistent efforts to minimize, and indeed valorize, his conduct, he was a key figure in a violent riot and assaulted numerous police officers,” prosecutors wrote.
Thomas served in the US Navy, but was discharged after being punished three times for misconduct. He also has a criminal record that includes convictions for domestic assault and robbery, according to prosecutors.
About 1,200 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot. More than 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. More than 700 of them have been convicted, and approximately two-thirds have received prison sentences ranging from three days to 22 years.