Washington — A Washington, D.C., man was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to assaulting three police officers during the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department announced.
The man, Mark Ponder, 56, was arrested in March 2021 in Washington and pleaded guilty in April to assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon.
Federal prosecutors said that on the afternoon of Jan. 6, as the mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters descended upon the Capitol, Ponder swung a long, thin pole at a U.S. Capitol Police officer responding to the rioters on the building’s West Plaza. The officer, who was not identified, raised his riot shield above his head to protect himself, and Ponder struck the shield with his pole, snapping it in two, according to his plea agreement.
After retreating into the crowd outside the Capitol, Ponder then found a “new, thicker pole colored with red, white and blue stripes,” court filings said, and approached a second Capitol Police officer who also used his riot shield to block the pole. Several minutes later, Ponder, facing Metropolitan Police Department officers lined on the Capitol’s Upper West Terrace, “wildly” swung the same colored pole at the officers and hit one in the left shoulder, according to the Justice Department.
Ponder was detained by Metropolitan Police officers and told law enforcement, “When our country is being attacked with, like we are, we have a right to fight … that is what the Second Amendment was built on,” according to his plea agreement.
He was ultimately released the afternoon of Jan. 6 and told not to return to the Capitol. But Ponder went back to the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace later in the early evening, “engaging with officers who were trying to clear the area of rioters,” court documents said.
Following his arrest in March 2021, Ponder admitted to FBI agents that he struck at least one officer with the red, white and blue pole and said the assaults were not “personal,” according to his plea agreement. He also told the agents “the way this country is going, you gonna have to pick a side,” court filings said.
Ponder is the second person to be sentenced to 63 months in prison — the longest term imposed so far in the ongoing investigation — for actions during the Capitol insurrection. The, Robert Scott Palmer, admitted to assaulting police officers with a wooden plank and fire extinguisher during the attack.
The Justice Department has arrested more than 850 people for charges related to the assault at the Capitol, including more than 260 who have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.