A United States man accused of using a taser on police officer Michael Fanone has pleaded guilty to his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez, 40, of Fontana, California, entered his plea in District Court on Tuesday, becoming one of nearly 500 people who pleaded guilty to participating in the riots at the US Capitol building, led by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
More than 985 defendants have been arrested so far in connection with the January 6 attack, according to estimates by the US Department of Justice. Rodriguez faces four federal charges, including conspiracy, obstructing official proceedings, obstruction of justice and assault on a law enforcement officer.
He is said to have played a central role in the attack on Fanone, a police officer who has since become a prominent figure who has spoken openly about the violence that occurred that day.
On the second anniversary of the attack last month, Fanone was among 14 people to receive the Presidential Civilian Medal, the second-highest civilian award in the US, from current President Joe Biden.
Fanone said he suffered a heart attack and brain injury as a result of the riots at the Capitol, in which Trump supporters tried to disrupt Congress’s certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Rodriguez previously admitted to using a taser on Fanone in an interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after he was arrested in March 2021. But defense lawyers tried to prevent Rodriguez’s words from being used in court, arguing that the FBI used “psychological tactics coercion” to get your client to talk.
Prosecutors said that, in the fall before the attack on the Capitol, Rodriguez and others organized a group chat on the encrypted messaging service Telegram. They called the forum “Patriots 45 MAGA Gang”, referring to Trump – the 45th president – and his slogan “Make America Great Again”, abbreviated MAGA.
There, Rodriguez was among those posting about plans to attend the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally in Washington, DC, where Trump was scheduled to speak. The then president spread false claims that the defeat in the 2020 elections was due to “rigged” results and fraud.
The rally was scheduled for the same day that Congress certified the Electoral College votes, showing that Democrat Joe Biden had won the presidential election.
“Congress can hang. I will do it. Please dear God let us catch these people,” Rodriguez reportedly posted in the group chat. The day before the attack on the Capitol, prosecutors say he wrote: “There will be blood. Welcome to the revolution.”
On January 6, Rodriguez reportedly walked from the rally down Pennsylvania Avenue, reaching the lower west terrace of the Capitol.
Confronted by officers, Rodriguez allegedly “participated in a heave ho attempt with other rioters” to break through the barricades and enter the tunnel where the doors to the Capitol were located.
As he tried to break down the door, prosecutors say he threw a flagpole and sprayed a fire extinguisher at law enforcement.
In the middle of the crowd, Officer Fanone was pulled out of the police line and dragged into the crowd. Rodriguez, who was supplied with a “small, black taser” by another rioter, allegedly used the taser gun twice on the back of Fanone’s head.
“Being among an outnumbered group of law enforcement officers protecting the Capitol and its people, I was grabbed, beaten, assaulted, all while being called a traitor to my country,” Fanone later testified before the now-disbanded committee. in the House of Representatives of the US Congress in charge of investigating the attack on the Capitol.
“I was in danger of being taken away and killed with my own firearm, because I heard shouts of ‘Kill him with his own gun.’ I can still hear those words in my head today,” said Fanone.
After Tasing Fanone, Rodriguez was accused of breaking a window on his way into the Capitol, rummaging through offices and congressional documents looking for “intel.” Prosecutors also say he wrote an update in a group chat after meeting Fanone: “Tazzzzed the *** of the bright,” a reference to police.
Rodriguez has since expressed remorse for his actions, telling FBI agents after his arrest that his actions were “stupid.” Speaking to the FBI, he also explained that he genuinely felt he was doing the “right thing” to “save the country.”
Others accused in Fanone’s beating also face federal charges and lengthy sentences. A man named Albuquerque Cosper Head received a prison sentence of more than seven years for allegedly dragging Fanone by the neck into a crowd of rioters. Another defendant, Kyle Young, received seven years and two months for his role in Fanone’s attack.
Rodriguez is scheduled to appear before US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in May for sentencing.