Tampa man sentenced to 4 months in Inauguration Day riots

Flash bang grenades go off Jan. 20 at the intersection of K and 13th streets in Washington as police confront protesters.
Flash bang grenades go off Jan. 20 at the intersection of K and 13th streets in Washington as police confront protesters.
Published July 8, 2017

WASHINGTON — The first of some 200 protesters to have their cases resolved after being arrested and charged with rioting during the Jan. 20 inauguration was sentenced to four months in jail Friday.

Dane Powell, 31, of Tampa asked Judge Lynn Leibovitz for "leniency" as he stood next to his attorneys in the crowded courtroom and awaited his sentence.

"I stand before you today asking for forgiveness for anyone who was scared, hurt or felt threatened by me on that day," He said in D.C. Superior Court, his voice choking with emotion.

The rioting during President Donald Trump's inauguration festivities lasted about 30 minutes and encompassed 16 city blocks, prosecutors said. Six police officers were injured and tens of thousands of dollars of damage was done to vehicles and store windows.

Authorities said 234 people were arrested and accused of rioting. Of those, 198 cases are pending.

In July, Powell pleaded guilty to assault on a police officer and inciting a riot, felony charges. Fifteen other people have pleaded to misdemeanor charges; 20 cases were dismissed.

During Friday's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff played a 10-minute compilation video in which she identified Powell throwing rocks and bricks at police and shattering store windows. Powell was dressed in black and his face was covered, but Kerkhoff identified him because his eyes were exposed, he was wearing brown boots and was carrying a black flag.

"He initiated violence," Kerkhoff said. "He came to the District of Columbia to engage in violence by hiding his face, throwing rocks and running. He's a violent coward."

Kerkhoff said Powell was seen in Logan Circle on the day before the inauguration with gas masks, a hammer and carrying the same flag that was seen in the video.

"He was throwing rocks and bricks at windows where people, customers and children were inside. He charged the police line with bricks," she said. "Mr. Powell is among the most violent" of the defendants, she added.

Powell's attorney Ashley Jones said her client, who spent nine years in the Army, has spent his life protesting and demonstrating for peace in an effort "to create a world where everyone is treated with humanity."

Jones said Powell didn't travel to Washington to participate in violence, but to protest because he "was worried about the direction of this country."

Jones blamed the police officers for some of the violence saying the protesters were at times responding to the officers. "Mr. Powell's motivation was to protest the inauguration. And during that protest he got carried away."

Kerkhoff said one police officer was knocked unconscious after he was struck with a heavy rock or brick. Kerkhoff conceded, however, there is no evidence that Powell threw the rock that struck the officer.

Giving Powell credit for pleading early in the case, Kerkhoff asked the judge to sentence Powell to six months in jail.

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Security was heightened in the courtroom where supporters of Powell and supporters of police officers took up all 50 seats and spilled over into another 20 seats in a second courtroom.

Leibovitz, who is overseeing the rioting cases, praised Powell for quickly agreeing to a plea deal, which she said factored into her sentence. Leibovitz also noted that it was unclear if any of the rocks Powell threw struck or injured the police officers. But she also criticized his violent actions.

"You chose to participate in violence. Your actions were willful and deliberate in the destruction of property and deliberately tried to hurt people," she said. Leibovitz also sentenced Powell to two years of supervised probation.