The three men appeared Thursday in a quiet courtroom less than half a mile from where a prime-time congressional hearing on Jan. 6 was scheduled to take place hours later. They were there to share their stories with the court, in front of the man who prosecutors say attacked them.
Lucas Denney sat in silence throughout the hearing, not looking at the men who were speaking. The 44-year-old man, who pleaded guilty to an assault on law enforcement, was accused of throwing a long plastic pipe into police lines and dealing with the mob that attacked then-DC officer Michael Fanone. Denney was due to be sentenced on Thursday, after the judge heard from the victims of the attack.
“I don’t care what sentence Mr. Denney gets,” Fanone told the federal judge in court Thursday. “I am only interested in what Mr Denney is doing these days, and I hope from the bottom of my heart that he is in pain.”
But in an unusual twist, the court adjourned Thursday with no jail time for Denney. U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss said Denney, in a recent court filing, made statements inconsistent with his guilty plea. Moss ordered the defense and prosecution to file a joint status report by July 29 to help determine whether he should hold an evidentiary hearing to re-examine the facts of the case. In the plea, Denney admitted to swinging a long plastic pipe at an officer and that the pipe was called a dangerous weapon.
Texas man, temporarily lost in the system, pleads guilty to assaulting police on January 6
The DC police sergeant who was injured by the PVC pipe choked on Thursday as he recounted bruises from the pipe and chemical burns from pepper spray on his face.
“Normally I’m not emotional, but today is the first time I’ve dealt with it,” he told the judge, his voice shaking. “I normally have a tough exterior.”
After battling rioters for hours, the sergeant said he spent time on a heart monitor because his blood pressure and pulse were high enough to risk a heart attack. The sergeant did not give his name in court, only his initials.
The sergeant said he distinctly remembered Denney intentionally hitting him with a pipe, and the moment “sadly repeats itself over and over in my mind”.
Denney, in a recent court filing, denied intending to harm the officer and said he was trying to knock off his pepper spray device.
“The pole was going towards my face and not towards my crowd control device which it tried to take from me earlier,” the sergeant said in court Thursday. “It’s clear to me that he doesn’t understand his actions that day…and he needs some serious self-reflection.”
In a separate statement, Fanone, who has since retired from the DC police force and become an on-air contributor for CNN, walked through the events of Jan. 6 from the perspective of law enforcement at the scene. , describing in detail the struggle to protect the exit from the west terrace from a barrage of batteries, shoes, masts, hammers and ladders.
“I was dragged past the police line, pulled into the crowd, and badly beaten and shocked with a stun gun,” he said. “I was eventually dragged to the police line by protesters who intervened on my behalf. It is probable that without the intervention of these demonstrators, I would have lost my life.
Photojournalist John Harrington, who captured footage of Denney swinging the pipe, said the January 6 anxiety persists to this day.
Moss said that the statements “will stay with me not just at sentencing, but throughout my remaining days on earth.”
Thursday’s hearing was the latest in a long and contentious legal battle over Denney’s future that began when he was arrested in Texas near the Mexican border on Dec. 13. Prosecutors and courts lost sight of him as he moved to a prison in Virginia, which meant he did not have a preliminary hearing or indictment within the legally required time frame. He was eventually charged on March 7 and pleaded guilty to a single count of assaulting law enforcement with a dangerous weapon – avoiding the more serious charge of conspiracy to obstruct official process.
Denney, of Mansfield, Texas, created a militia he called the “Patriot Boys of North Texas,” which he says aligns with the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, according to court records.
Tom Jackman contributed to this report.