Riot at the Capitol: the man behind a truck full of Molotovs gets four years

An Alabama man who parked a van full of weapons and Molotov cocktail components near the U.S. Capitol on the day of last year’s riot was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she still hadn’t heard an explanation as to why Lonnie Leroy Coffman had “almost a little arsenal in his truck ready to fight.” She sentenced Coffman to three years and 10 months in prison, giving him credit for more than a year he has already served since his arrest.

Coffman, 72, of Falkville, Alabama, said he never intended to hurt anyone or destroy property. He said he traveled to Washington alone “to try to find out how true and safe the (2020 presidential) election was.”

“If I had any idea things would turn out the way they did, I would have stayed home,” he wrote in a handwritten letter to the judge.

More than 770 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot, when supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump stormed the building in an effort to disrupt lawmakers’ official certification of his re-election defeat. . Five people died and dozens of Capitol Police officers were seriously injured.

More than 240 participants in the attack have pleaded guilty, most to offenses carrying a maximum sentence of six months in prison. More than 130 have been convicted. Coffman is one of nine defendants whose prison term exceeds one year.

Coffman, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the US military, pleaded guilty in November to possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying an unlicensed pistol. He carried a loaded handgun and an unlicensed revolver while walking around Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, prosecutors say. He is not charged with entering the Capitol or joining the crowd during the riot that day.

When Coffman parked his truck a few blocks from the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6, it contained a handgun, rifle, shotgun, hundreds of rounds, a crossbow, machetes, a stun gun and a cooler containing eleven masons. jars with holes drilled in the lids, according to prosecutors. Each pot contained a mixture of gasoline and polystyrene, which are components of homemade incendiary devices called Molotov cocktails, prosecutors said.

Law enforcement officers found the weapons and ammunition cache when they searched Coffman’s truck. They had swept the area after the discovery of pipe bombs near the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Later, investigators also found components of Molotov cocktails at Coffman’s home in Alabama.

“The possession of so many dangerous weapons in our nation’s capital is especially offensive to our cherished Democratic political traditions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Friedman said.

Handwritten notes found inside the vehicle included a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln which read: “We the people are lawful masters of Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution .”

The notes included a list of “good guys” and “bad guys,” with a federal judge named in the latter category, and contact information for a member of a Texas militia known as the “American Patriots,” the officials said. prosecutors.

“The handwritten notes also included the address of a reported gathering place in Texas called ‘Camp Lonestar,’ where militia groups allegedly sought to patrol the border in search of illegal aliens,” prosecutors wrote.

Investigators previously identified Coffman as an armed participant at Camp Lonestar, prosecutors say.

Coffman, a retired machine operator, had traveled to Washington in December 2020 and attempted to visit the home of a US senator who is not named in a filing by prosecutors. He also called the senator’s office in a bid to “help him with the voter fraud he saw.”

“A staff member from the Senator’s office noted that the defendant appeared ‘unbalanced’ or ‘not 100%’ during the call, but did not appear threatening,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors have recommended a prison sentence of approximately three years and six months. Defense attorney Manuel Retureta said a prison sentence would not be appropriate given Coffman’s age and medical condition.

Coffman had no criminal record prior to this case.

“At my age, one of the most precious things we have is time, and I have wasted almost an entire precious year,” he wrote in his letter to the judge.

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