WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of the Proud Boys extremist group who went on the run after he was convicted in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol and then allegedly faked a drug overdose after he was caught was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.
Christopher Worrell, who was convicted of assaulting police with pepper spray, was on house arrest in Naples, Florida, when he disappeared in August, ahead of his original sentencing date.
He was found six weeks later after he tried to “covertly return” to his home, prosecutors said. He seemed to be unconscious and was hospitalized for five days to treat an apparent opioid drug overdose, but prosecutors say he faked his condition to further stall his sentencing.
Worrell suffers from a rare form of lymphoma and said he was afraid the cancer treatment he’d get during a long prison sentence could allow the disease to kill him. He also disputed that he faked his overdose.
“I acted out of severe mental anguish and very genuine fear for my life,” he said. “I am truly sorry and I hope you can fined it in your heart to forgive me.”
Prosecutors had asked for a 14-year sentence on assault, obstruction of Congress and other offenses. They argued he should get a longer sentence after running away from house arrest and faking the overdose cost thousands of dollars in overtime for sheriff’s deputies assigned to watch him. FBI agents also found night-vision goggles, $4,000 in cash, and survivalist gear in his home, authorities said.
Worrell had previously been held in jail in Washington, but was released in November 2021, after a judge substantiated his civil-rights complaints about his treatment in the jail. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth found Worrell’s medical care for a broken hand had been delayed, and held D.C. jail officials in contempt of court.
Lamberth said Thursday that Worrell’s complaints and his response had led to reforms in the system and he wanted to ensure that he would get adequate cancer treatment in prison, but his crimes still warranted a hefty sentence.
“This is a hard case for me,” Lamberth said.
Worrell, 52, was convicted after a bench trial of assaulting officers with pepper spray gel as the mob of Donald Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Authorities say he was dressed in tactical vest and bragged that he “deployed a whole can” and shouted insults at officers, calling them “commies” and “scum.”
Prosecutors say Worrell also lied on the witness stand at trial, claiming that he was actually spraying other rioters. The judge called that claim “preposterous,” prosecutors said in court papers.
Worrell’s defense attorney, on the other hand, said his client brought the spray gel and tactical vest to Washington for defensive purposes because of previous violence between Proud Boys and counter-protesters. The chaotic scene at the Capitol “could have contributed to misperceptions creating inaccuracies” in Worrell’s testimony at trial, attorney William Shipley said.
More than three dozen people charged in the Capitol attack have been identified by federal authorities as leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys, whose members describe it as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.”
Former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio was sentenced in September 2023 to 22 years in prison — the longest term handed down in the Jan. 6 attack. Tarrio and three Proud Boys associates were convicted of seditious conspiracy and other crimes for what prosecutors said was a plot to stop the transfer of power from Trump, a Republican, to Democrat Joe Biden.