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Flagpole-hurling Cleveland man sentenced in Capitol breach case

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press: A Cleveland, Tennessee, man was sentenced Wednesday to 6.5 years in federal prison on eight felony counts f

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press: A Cleveland, Tennessee, man was sentenced Wednesday to 6.5 years in federal prison on eight felony counts for pushing against barricades and hurling a flagpole at a police officer’s head during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.


Joseph Lino “Jose” Padilla, 43, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in a Washington, D.C., courtroom. He was ordered to pay $2,000 restitution and will serve two years of supervised release after his sentence.


Padilla, honorably discharged from the Tennessee National Guard in 2012, has remained in federal custody in Washington since his arrest Feb. 23, 2021. If Padilla gets credit for the two and a half years he has already spent behind bars, that means he could complete his sentence in less than four years, or by August 2027.


Sentencing in Capitol riot cases with similar charges falls into a range similar to Padilla’s 78-month sentence. Prosecutors in his case had sought a prison sentence of more than 14 years.


In a breach case hearing before Bates on Sept. 7, Sean Michael McHugh, of Auburn, California, was also sentenced to 78 months in prison, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release. Bates ordered McHugh to pay $2,000 restitution and a $5,000 fine. McHugh attacked police at the Capitol with bear spray and declared “we stormed them and we took Congress” on social media.


Padilla pleaded not guilty March 30, 2021, to 11 counts, including charges of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He was represented by attorney Michael Cronkright.


On May 3, he was convicted on 10 of the 11 counts in the indictment following a three-day trial before Bates, who presided over Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.


The most serious of the charges, throwing the flagpole like a spear, striking a police officer in the helmet but not injuring him, was the focus of much of the trial and the primary count considered at his sentencing Wednesday.


Padilla testified in May he attended then-President Donald Trump’s rally the morning of Jan. 6 because it was something new. He’d gone to Washington with his brother-in-law and his spouse. Padilla denied he ever belonged to any groups like the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys.


Defense memo

A sentencing memorandum filed Sept. 6 by Cronkright described the pre-Capitol breach Padilla as a stay-at-home, military-veteran dad diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder living with his wife of 18 years and children with no prior criminal record. Padilla, a Vicksburg, Mississippi, native, was the youngest of five children, all step-siblings.


“Mr. Padilla’s family history is impacted by the fact that he was raised in a dysfunctional and abusive environment,” Cronkright said in the document.


Padilla grew up in a home where sexual abuse not involving Padilla occurred frequently at the hands of his biological father, the memorandum states. Padilla and his father moved often after his parents divorced over continued abuse.


“Mr. Padilla recalls his father picking him up after work from the babysitter’s house and going directly to his father’s favorite bar, where he was left to sit in the corner in the back of the bar,” Cronkright wrote in the memorandum. “There he would fall asleep while his father drank.”


Padilla witnessed his mother’s overdose when he was in kindergarten, the memo states. In the aftermath, Padilla’s family was left homeless in Texas for a time. Padilla was 25 when his mother died at the age 55 from a heart attack. Padilla moved out of the home at 18 to live on his own, the memorandum states.


The Padilla family has suffered since Padilla’s February 2021 arrest and continued incarceration, with Padilla’s wife experiencing mental health issues from the stress of his incarceration and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD, the memorandum states. The situation also affected Padilla’s mental health, causing him to have anxiety and flashbacks over his family’s situation, the memo states.


“Mr. Padilla reports that his upbringing combined with his combat experience in the Army has made him an introvert who struggles with loud noise, chaos and large groups; all of which are largely unavoidable in prison,” Cronkright states in the memorandum. “He further states that he is constantly on the verge of tears and looks forward to receiving his evening medications in the hopes he will fall into a deep sleep just to gain some peace.”


Padilla’s family is the only stable environment he has ever lived in, and separation from them has an ongoing negative effect.


“Mr. Padilla deeply regrets ever having gone to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021,” Cronkright states. “He states that every day is torture having to live with the fact that his actions are the direct reason for his family’s separation and hardship. He understands that his actions on Jan. 6 caused himself and his family the pain and suffering they now deal with daily. Mr. Padilla reports that his only desire post-incarceration is to find some land and build a farmstead for his family.”