By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Associated Press
A Texas winery operator was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly seven years in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol and joining an attack on the House chamber when police shot and killed another rioter.
Christopher Ray Grider also tried to cut power to the Capitol building during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot — “a terrifying act of political and institutional sabotage,” according to prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced Grider to six years and 11 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia.
Grider, 41, joined the mob’s assault on the House chamber and helped another rioter break the Speaker’s Lobby’s glass doors, “setting in motion the chain of events” that led to an officer fatally shooting fellow rioter Ashli Babbitt, prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Prosecutors had recommended a prison sentence of seven years and three months for Grider.
Grider pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts before going to trial on other charges. He testified at his December 2022 bench trial before Kollar-Kotelly decided the case without a jury and convicted him of seven charges, including civil disorder and obstructing the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Defense attorney Brent Mayr said Grider “truly regrets his actions on January 6 and apologizes to his family, his community, and most importantly, this country.” There is no evidence that Grider engaged in any violence at the Capitol, his lawyer noted.
“This is a sad day,” Mayr wrote in an email after his client’s sentencing. “We respect the court’s consideration of all Chris did to try to make things right after January 6, but we are disappointed that his sentence is significantly longer than others who did so much worse than him.”
More than 1,000 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Just over 500 of them have been sentenced, with more than half receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from a week to over 14 years. Only seven rioters have received longer prison sentences than Grider so far, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
Also on Tuesday, a different judge sentenced a Proud Boys extremist group member from Rhode Island to two months of imprisonment for his role in the Jan. 6 riot. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden also sentenced Bernard Joseph Sirr to six months of home confinement and one year of probation, according to court records.
Sirr, 47, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, pleaded guilty in January to joining other rioters in a coordinated push against police officers guarding a tunnel entrance on the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace.
Prosecutors had sought a 10-month term of imprisonment for Sirr, a U.S. Army veteran who has worked as a reactor engineer at the Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center, where the state’s only nuclear reactor is located.
Grider was a U.S. Air Force military police officer who guarded an air base after serving in the Army National Guard. More recently, he has operated a family-owned winery with his wife near Waco, Texas.
Grider and a friend flew to Washington, D.C., on the morning of Jan. 6. They missed then-President Trump’s speech at the “Stop the Steal” rally, but the two friends arrived in time to join the crowd of Trump supporters marching to the Capitol.
Outside the Capitol, Grider helped other rioters dismantle police barricades and picked up a discarded police helmet.
After entering the building, he approached a utility panel and tried in vain to cut power to the Capitol. He urged other rioters to join him as he marched toward the House chamber, shouting “We gotta get into the chamber! This way, this way, this way!””
Joining the mob’s attack on doors leading to the House, Grider pleaded with police officers to open the doors. Grider handed the helmet to another rioter, Zachary Alam, who used it to smash a pane on the Speaker’s Lobby’s glass doors, prosecutors said. A Capitol police lieutenant on the other side of the doors shot and killed Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from California, as she climbed through the opening.
“Despite witnessing the shooting, and instead of obeying the officers’ directives to leave the area, Grider lingered on for several minutes, interfering with police efforts to provide medical assistance to the wounded rioter and restore order to the area,” a prosecutor wrote in a court filing.
Alam was charged separately and has a jury trial scheduled to start on July 31.
Mayr said Grider “was not some fanatical, anti-social, antigovernment individual who dwelled upon or obsessed about coming to (Washington) to do harm and violence.”
“He was a productive, positive member of his community with a host of underlying issues and experiences that made him susceptible to being manipulated by a narcissist and false beliefs that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump,” Mayr wrote in a court filing.