Opinion: What my January 6 assailant deserves
Editor’s Note: Michael Fanone, a former Washington, D.C., police officer injured during the Capitol riot, will publish a memoir next month, “Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop’s Battle for America’s Soul.” He is a CNN law enforcement analyst. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.
On Tuesday, a federal judge will sentence the first of four men accused of viciously assaulting me and other police officers as we defended the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
I’ll be there to look him in the eye and to seek justice.
Kyle Young of Redfield, Iowa, is the man who prosecutors say supplied the Taser that another Trump supporter used to electrocute me after I was violently dragged from the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace Tunnel. The defendant has pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting a police officer.
Young, who was there in the middle of the mob just outside the tunnel, restrained me as I recoiled from the first Taser shocks. On my body-worn police camera footage, Young’s menacing face and arms lunge toward me as I howl in pain. Like the three Taser scars on my neck, his face is a memory I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Since the day of the insurrection, I’ve thought a lot about what justice looks like. Tuesday’s hearing won’t be the first time I’ve stood in court to face a criminal who attacked me. As an officer for the Metropolitan Police Department for two decades, I patrolled some of the most dangerous streets in Washington, D.C. I participated in more than 2,000 arrests, mostly for dealing heroin, crack cocaine or methamphetamine or for illegally carrying guns.
I was assaulted scores of times while making an arrest, received at least five concussions and endured countless trips to the emergency room. It was simply part of the job. I knew that most people who violently resisted arrest weren’t targeting me. Most were just trying to escape. I get that. Nobody wants to be arrested. Going to jail sucks.
This case is different. We mustn’t let this moment pass without emphasizing why.
A sitting President of the United States sent an army of misfits and malcontents to attack the Capitol, one of our most cherished symbols of democracy. On that day, I was assigned to vice detail and had planned an undercover heroin buy. When I heard the desperate cries of my fellow officers, I self-deployed to help defend the Capitol.
The assault irrevocably changed my life. I suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and I still struggle with PTSD nearly every day.
In the fallout, I lost the job I loved. I also lost faith in law enforcement: As I became more outspoken against the growing number of Republicans who tried to minimize the violence against police, I became ostracized by hundreds of officers and a union that continues to support the Republican Party and former President Donald Trump. It boggles my mind that elements of the Secret Service continue to defend Trump, a man who is a clear and present danger to our country.
But back to Young, the rioter who will be sentenced Tuesday. Young’s rap sheet is so long that he qualifies for a federal designation as a career criminal, including multiple drug and firearms offenses.
On December 26, 2020, a week and a half before the insurrection, Young solicited others on social media to join him in Washington. He even recruited his 16-year-old son and arrived at the Capitol on January 6 fully prepared to fight the police.
Videos show that Young eagerly joined the mob as it tried to ram its way through the Lower West Terrace Tunnel, where about 40 of my fellow officers tried to hold the line. Young used a strobe light to blind officers. He threw a large audio speaker at officers and jabbed a pole at the police.
“Young enthusiastically and tenaciously participated in the assault on police in the tunnel at the Lower West Terrace – the scene of some of the most barbaric violence on January 6,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
As I battled inside the tunnel, prosecutors say Young handed a Taser to another rioter, Danny Rodriguez, and showed him how to use it.
“When Young spotted Officer Fanone being pulled into the crowd,” prosecutors wrote, “he purposefully moved toward the attack, and joined it at a pivotal moment – restraining Officer Fanone’s wrist by pulling it away from his body seconds after the officer was repeatedly tased and amid shouts to ‘Kill him with his own gun!’ ”
Young has since pleaded guilty to assaulting me. Despite making a taped confession to FBI agents, Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty. I can’t wait to testify at his trial next year.
On Tuesday, Young’s attorney will ask a judge to sentence him to two years – a laughably short sentence. Prosecutors have asked for a seven-year term – not quite a joke but also not nearly long enough. By comparison, a former New York police officer with no criminal record received 10 years for attacking officers during the riot.
What do I think Young deserves? Not less than 10 years in prison. And an assigned cell in maximum security with his co-conspirator: Donald Trump.