Ex-UCLA student linked to extremists gets Jan. 6 prison term

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former UCLA student who stormed the U.S. Capitol while waving a flag promoting a far-right extremist movement was sentenced on Wednesday to three years and six months in prison for his role in a mob’s attack on the building.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden also sentenced Christian Secor, 24, of Costa Mesa, California, to three years of supervised release after his prison term, court records show.

Secor was a follower of “America First” movement leader Nicholas Fuentes, “a public figure known for making racist statements, celebrating fascism, and promoting white supremacy,” a prosecutor wrote in a court filing. Fuentes spread false information about the 2020 presidential election and used Twitter to champion the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, the filing says.

Fuentes, a livestreaming internet personality whose supporters are known as “Groypers,” was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 but hasn’t been accused of entering the building that day or been charged with any riot-related crimes. In 2017, Fuentes was a Boston University student when he attended a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted in violence.

Secor entered the Capitol while carrying a blue flag with the white letters “AF” and wearing a hat bearing the same “AF” emblem. At UCLA, Secor was president of America First Bruins.

Secor had access to a privately manufactured “ghost gun” and other weapons, “all while supporting political violence,” wrote Kimberly Paschall, an assistant U.S. attorney. The night before his arrest, Secor and an associate exchanged text messages regarding “ultra secret” “future operations,” the prosecutor said.

“Secor’s history of adhering to extremist ideology and easy access to weapons, including firearms, warrants serious consideration when fashioning an appropriate sentence,” Paschall wrote.

After entering the Capitol through the Senate Wing door, Secor walked through the office suite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and once in the Rotunda, Secor joined other rioters in pushing against doors and overpowering three police officers, according to a court filing that accompanied his guilty plea. Entering the Senate chamber, Secor sat in a chair that Vice President Mike Pence had occupied about 30 minutes earlier.

After the riot, Secor tweeted a message that said, “It was Trump supporters you losers, and you should be proud. One day accomplished more for conservativism than the last 30 years.”

Prosecutors recommended sentencing Secor to four years and nine months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Defense lawyer Brandi Harden said Secor, then 22, flew from Newport Beach, California, to Washington “upon the urging of” then-President Donald Trump because Secor wanted to protest the results of the 2020 election that Democrat Joe Biden won.

“Christian’s involvement in the January 6th protest was not pre-meditated,” the lawyer wrote. “At the time of his trip to Washington D.C., he had become disillusioned by the hysteria about a stolen election coming from social media and news channels.”

Harden said Secor’s participation in the riot was “minimal, short lived, and included no violence.”

“He joined the crowd without a plan and without any understanding of what was about to unfold,” Harden wrote in a court filing.

Secor was arrested in February 2021. He pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of obstructing an official proceeding, the joint session of Congress for certifying Biden’s victory.

The court’s probation department calculated a sentencing guideline range of 51 months to 63 months of imprisonment for Secor.

Harden asked the judge to sentence Secor to two years of supervised probation, 75 hours of community service and home detention instead of incarceration.

UCLA suspended Secor after the riot. He began working for a family-owned vacation rental business after his arrest, according to Harden.

The FBI has linked other Capitol riot defendants to the “America First” movement, including California resident Brandon Scott Cavanaugh.

“Groypers believe they are defending against the demographic and cultural changes that are destroying the ‘true America,’ a white, Christian nation,” an FBI wrote in a court filing for Cavanaugh’s case.

Approximately 900 people have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 attack. More than 400 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanor offenses, and nearly 300 have been sentenced.

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For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege

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