A Seattle man who pleaded guilty to punching federal police officers after storming the U.S. Capitol with a pro-Trump mob last year was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison – 21 months less than what prosecutors had sought.
Mark Jefferson Leffingwell, 52 — a former member of the Washington National Guard — appeared by video from Seattle for his sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Amy B. Jackson in the District of Columbia.
“You punched the first officer and then you punched another officer who was trying to restrain you,” Jackson said. “More than one punch, more than one officer. It was wrong, it was unconscionable, and I think you know that.”
Still, Jackson took into account Leffingwell’s military service, family situation and lack of criminal history when formulating what she called “one of the most difficult” decisions she’s made for a criminal sentence. The prison term she gave Leffingwell came in well under the 24- to 30-month range in federal guidelines outlined in the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum.
Leffingwell, a disabled combat veteran and married father of two sons, told the judge before she imposed the sentence he was “embarrassed and ashamed of myself for what happened.”
“It was not something that I planned to do,” he added. “And looking back on it, it’s just a nightmare. … I wish I could go back and make it not happen.”
As part of his sentence, Leffingwell must also pay $2,000 in restitution and serve 24 months of supervised probation and perform community service upon release. The judge’s sentence allows him to voluntarily surrender at a date to be determined for incarceration at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
Leffingwell, who was arrested inside the Capitol, was the first of at least a dozen Washington state residents to be charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, siege led by supporters of then-President Donald Trump intent on disrupting Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.
He initially was charged in a criminal complaint with counts of assaulting a federal officer, entering or remaining in a restricted building and disorderly conduct. A grand jury’s indictment later added four additional charges, including a second assault count, violent entry into a Capitol building, being involved in an act of violence in a Capitol building and felony civil disobedience.
Leffingwell ultimately pleaded guilty in September to a single count of assaulting a federal officer under a plea arrangement. He faced a maximum sentence of up to eight years in prison.
Leffingwell, a resident of Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, served in the Washington National Guard from 2005 to 2009 and deployed with the 81st Brigade to Iraq. He was honorably discharged in 2009 and, according to federal court records and prosecutors, is on disability due to a combat-related traumatic brain injury.
“Leffingwell, a military veteran who once defended the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, willingly betrayed his nation and became an enemy of the United States on January 6,” federal prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo, which recommended that Leffingwell receive a 27-month prison sentence.
According to court records, Leffingwell traveled with a friend to the so-called Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C., then walked a mile to the Capitol after the siege was underway.
Once there, Leffingwell pushed his way to the front of a chanting crowd that had made its way just inside the Senate Wing entrance of the Capitol at about 4 p.m., prosecutors say. Capitol Police Officer Daniel Amendola said he and other officers were attempting to form a barrier to prevent the mob from further entering the Capitol when he encountered Leffingwell, who tried to push past him.
“When he was deterred from advancing further into the building, Leffingwell punched me repeatedly with a closed fist. I was struck in the helmet that I was wearing and in the chest,” Amendola wrote in an affidavit.
Leffingwell also struck another officer in the head, prosecutors say. Officers apprehended Leffingwell “before he could escape back into the crowd,” charging papers say.
“While in custody, but prior to being advised of his Miranda (rights), Leffingwell spontaneously … apologized to me for striking me,” Amendola’s affidavit added.
Before sentencing Leffingwell, Jackson said she read and considered several letters from Leffingwell’s neighbors, friends, relatives and others who described him as a thoughtful, polite and hardworking family man and “an honestly good American.” She also noted that Leffingwell had no criminal history and expressed “extreme remorse and regret” for his actions during the Jan. 6 siege.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Rizzoni told Jackson Leffingwell had ample opportunities on the day of the siege to avoid the uprising, but instead chose to join it. “He believed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen and he was there to do something about it,” Rizzoni said.
Mark Carroll, Leffingwell’s defense lawyer, countered that his client “knew he screwed up,” but added “he was not one of the instigators” of the siege, got swept up in it and simply reacted when caught between officers and the crowd.
“It was against the law for him being there, it was against the law for him to punch the officers; we’re not minimizing that,” Carroll said. “But he knew what he did was wrong and he apologized immediately.”
In her sentencing deliberations, Jackson noted that, unlike others involved in the siege, Leffingwell didn’t text or post angry political threats leading up to the event, and she considered that his family potentially could have lost his disability benefits had she imposed a longer sentence.
But she also found Leffingwell wasn’t just a passive observer who was “carried along by the crowd.”
“I can’t ignore the fact that you made the decision to walk toward the Capitol,” she told Leffingwell. “This was a deliberate attack.”
At least one other defendant from Seattle, Devlyn Thompson, 28, has been convicted and sentenced in the Capitol breach case, which so far has led to charges against more than 700 people nationwide. Thompson is serving a 36-month sentence at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac after being sentenced last month.