- Published On
- October 21, 2022
- Written by
- Kio Herrera from Freedom of the Press Foundation
While documenting the large mob in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, photographer John Minchillo was grabbed by rioters and shoved and pushed through the crowd. After being thrown over a stone wall, Minchillo got to his feet and held up the Associated Press media credentials hanging around his neck.
On Oct. 21, 2022, one of three men charged with his assault was sentenced in a D.C. district court. Alan William Byerly, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to multiple charges stemming from his role during the Jan. 6 riots — including assaulting a federal officer and shoving and pushing Manchillo — was sentenced to nearly three years in prison, followed by supervised release. More than 21 months after the Capitol riots, Byerly is the first J6 rioter whose sentencing involves the assault of a journalist.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documented 18 journalists assaulted during the riots and tens of thousands of dollars of news equipment damaged.
As of January 2023, the Department of Justice has charged nearly 950 people for illegal activities at the Capitol that day. The Tracker identified 10 of those as directly connected to the assault of journalists or destruction of their equipment.
Assaults of journalists (with charges)
According to the DOJ’s searchable Capitol Breach Cases database and other media reports, five people have been charged in connection with three of those assaults:
(Listed by journalist assaulted, with individuals charged in connection to those assaults below by charge date.)
- July 7, 2021: Byerly was charged with attacking Minchillo as well as a Capitol Police officer. Federal prosecutors said Byerly “pushed, shoved, and dragged” Minchillo after rioters had pushed him down a flight of stairs. Byerly pleaded guilty to the charges on July 25, 2022. On Oct. 21, he was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He will be credited for 15 months of time served since his arrest.
- Aug. 19, 2021: The DOJ announced Benjamen Scott Burlew had also been arrested and charged in connection to Minchillo’s assault. An affidavit stated Burlew “lunged toward the photographer and grabbed his upper chest and leg to forcefully throw and push the photographer over the wall to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, several feet below.” During a hearing on Dec. 19, 2022, Burlew’s request for a competency hearing was withdrawn. Burlew’s trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 14, 2023. (Updated Jan. 4, 2023.)
- May 24, 2022: Maryland resident Rodney Milstreed was arrested and charged with multiple counts related to obstruction, assault and disorderly conduct, including assaulting Minchillo. According to the Justice Department, Milstreed grabbed Minchillo by his backpack and pulled him backward down a flight of stairs. On April 17, 2023, Milstreed pleaded guilty to three felony charges for assaulting Capitol police and Minchillo, and for possession of an unregistered firearm. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
- June 28, 2021: Sandra “Sandy” Pomeroy Weyer, from Pennsylvania, was arrested and charged in connection with the assault of Schaff. An affidavit stated Weyer recorded several rioters attacking Schaffs and stealing her camera. In the video, Weyer is heard yelling, “Get her out! Mace her,” as Schaff tries to retrieve her camera. Weyer is scheduled to go on trial on June 5, 2023.
- June 24, 2021: DOJ arrested Shane Woods in connection with tackling the Reuters cameraman to the ground and destruction of equipment belonging to the AP. As part of a plea agreement, Woods pleaded guilty to two assault charges on Sept. 9, 2022. His April 7, 2023, sentencing hearing was postponed and no new date has been set. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
Assaults of journalists (no charges)
For the 15 other journalists assaulted at Capitol, listed below in alphabetical order, no charges have been filed in their assaults, which range from being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher to being dragged out of the Capitol building. We’ll update with new information as it becomes available.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, The Washington Post: Andrade-Rhoades, a freelance photojournalist on assignment for the Post, said she was hit by crowd-control munitions fired by law enforcement multiple times.
Douglas Christian, Independent: Christian told the Tracker he was harassed, pursued and punched by rioters near the Russell Senate Office Building. Christian said at the time he tried contacting the Capitol Police about the incident but did not receive a response.
Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour correspondent: Desjardins told Vice News an unidentified individual grabbed her and tried to wrest her phone away.
Nate Gowdy, Independent: Gowdy told the Tracker he was photographing rioters storming the Capitol while standing on a balustrade when a man threatened him and shoved him off. Gowdy said he wasn’t wearing any protective gear but managed to land on his feet.
John Harrington, Independent: Harrington told the Tracker he was assaulted and harassed multiple times by rioters. He said he was hit in the head with what he believes was a fire extinguisher and also hit with a chair thrown by a rioter in a scuffle with police officers.
Aymann Ismail, Slate reporter: Ismail said he was pushed by a Capitol Police officer as a way to slow down the crowd of people behind him who were trying to force their way into the Capitol Building.
Vincent Jolly, Le Figaro reporter: Jolly’s cell phone was destroyed after a man swiped at it while he was livestreaming.
Chris Jones, 100 Days in Appalachia photojournalist: Jones told the Tracker he was confronted by rioters inside the Capitol for being a journalist and was picked up and dragged out of the building. Later in the day, Jones said a flash-bang grenade fired by Capitol police exploded right next to him, damaging his camera pouch.
Christopher Lee, Time magazine: Lee, a freelance photojournalist on assignment for Time magazine, said rioters identified him as a journalist and started to grab and remove him from the Capitol.
Ronnie McCray, CNN photojournalist: The Daily Beast reported McCray was assaulted by a rioter who also smacked his camera.
Christopher Morris, Freelance: During a panel discussion, Morris said he was assaulted at least four times, which included rioters “pushing, shoving, some kicking [and] pulling.”
Chris Olson, VICE News cameraman: According to Vice News international correspondent Ben Solomon, he and Olson were attacked by several rioters on the steps of the Capitol. One man also attempted to smash Olson’s camera, damaging the handle grip.
Manu Raju, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent: Raju said he was pushed aside by a senator’s aide inside the Senate chamber while covering the insurrection. In a tweet, Raju said he confronted the aide who denied it after a Capitol police officer who witnessed the incident reprimanded him. Soon after, Raju said the aide apologized.
Ben Solomon, VICE News international correspondent: Demonstrators confronted Soloman and cameraman Chris Olsen on the steps of the Capitol. According to Solomon, an individual gave him a “good hard shove to the throat.”
Unidentified photojournalist 17, FOX 5 DC: A cameraman for FOX 5 DC was assaulted by rioters. Video of the assault and harassment of the camera crew shows a woman lurching at and kicking crew members.
Destruction of Media Equipment
Four of the journalists assaulted — Jolly, Jones, Olson and Schaff — also reported damage to their equipment. Major destruction of media equipment came, however, when rioters mobbed an area on Capitol grounds where broadcast cameras and crews were gathered. To date, DOJ has charged five people in connection with the large-scale attack on a media staging zone that affected at least two broadcasters:
- Jan. 13, 2021: Peter Harding from New York State was arrested and charged with knowingly entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct. Federal prosecutors said he was caught on camera trying to ignite the pile of media equipment on fire. A status hearing is scheduled for June 23, 2023. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
- June 28, 2021: Zvonimir Jurlina was arrested on charges related to destroying media equipment. Jurlina was identified by prosecutors as kicking and stomping on media equipment and assisting in trying to light a pile of it on fire. As part of a plea deal, Jurlina pleaded guilty to committing an act of physical violence on Capitol grounds on April 19, 2023. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 20. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
- June 30, 2021: Chase Kevin Allen, from Massachusetts, was arrested in connection with destroying media equipment. Allen was part of a group captured on video repeatedly stomping on camera equipment. Allen told federal prosecutors he considered himself a documentary filmmaker and was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to film the events. As part of a November 2022 plea deal, Allen pleaded guilty to charges related to destruction of property. Allen was sentenced to three years of probation on April 20, 2023, and ordered to pay $500 restitution. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
- June 30, 2021: Long island resident Gabriel Brown was arrested and charged with destruction of property in connection with destroying media equipment. Prosecutors identified Brown as part of the crowd that destroyed cameras, tripods, and remote broadcasting equipment. Brown filed a guilty plea as part of a plea agreement on Feb. 8, 2023. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 12. (Updated April 20, 2023.)
- July 1, 2021: Virginia resident Joshua Dillon Haynes was arrested and indicted on eight counts, including destroying news equipment belonging to media crews. Haynes initially pleaded not guilty to the charges but later withdrew his request for a jury trial. On Oct. 28, 2022, Haynes pleaded guilty to two felony charges for obstruction and destruction of property. On Feb. 2, 2023, Haynes was sentenced to more than 2 1/2 years in prison on each charge, which will run concurrently. Both sentences carry an additional three years of supervised release, and Haynes was also ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution for damage to the Capitol. On May 1, Haynes was ordered to pay approximately $33,000 in restitution to ZDF’s insurer with monthly payments of $20 following his release. (Updated Feb. 3, 2023.)
Harassment of journalists
Dozens of journalists were also harassed while covering the riots, and “Murder the Media” was written on the Capitol Building’s commemorative doors.
- January 2021: Federal prosecutors charged Nicholas R. Ochs and Nicholas DeCarlo, self-proclaimed Proud Boys, with obstruction of an official proceeding. Both Ochs and DeCarlo pleaded guilty to the charge on Sept. 9, 2022, and admitted to defacing the Memorial Doors on the Capitol Building by writing “Murder the Media” in maker. The Justice Department said MTM was the name of their social media channel. On Dec. 9, DeCarlo and Ochs were each sentenced to four years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. According to court documents, Ochs was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $2,000 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. DeCarlo was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, $2,000 in restitution and a $100 special assessment. (Updated Dec. 9, 2022.)
With additional research by Stephanie Sugars and Jazmyn Gray.