A Trump appointee to the State Department who assaulted multiple police officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Friday by a fellow veteran of the administration.
Judge Trevor McFadden said he was “disturbed” that Federico Klein, 45, considered it part of his “duties” to attend the Trump rally that day and join the protesters at the Capitol agitating for lawmakers to throw the election to Trump.
“This is a government of laws, not of men,” McFadden said before imposing the 70 month sentence. In addition to the eight felonies he found Klein guilty of at a bench trial earlier this year, the judge said Klein’s participation in the riot was “almost certainly a violation of the Hatch Act,” an anti-corruption law that limits government employees’ engagement in partisan politics.
“I’m a Trump appointee. I’d better be there. It IS my job,” Klein texted an acquaintance before the rally. Klein, who held a top-secret security clearance, wore a red MAGA hat when he joined the crowd that went from the rally to the Capitol.
At trial, officers testified that Klein was at the front of the violent mob for nearly two hours, first helping to break a police line guarding the Capitol’s west terrace, and then joining a brutal battle against officers guarding a tunnel into the building.
“I never realized that the biggest threat to our country would come from people who swore to protect it — someone who took the same oath to protect and serve the United States as I did,” said Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a Capitol police officer who was in the tunnel on Jan. 6 and who spoke at Klein’s sentencing.
Klein, who may appeal his conviction, declined to speak in court.
Klein repeatedly shoved against the officers with a stolen riot shield. He helped pin D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges to a metal door frame while another rioter stole Hodges’s gas mask, and helped trap another officer being dragged into the mob. When police were close to being able to shut the tunnel doors and keep the rioters out, Klein used the shield to block them.
The rioter who grabbed Hodges’s mask and then beat the officer with his own baton, 53-year-old Steven Cappuccio, was sentenced Friday by McFadden to 85 months in prison.
Klein also shouted encouragement to the crowd, calling for “fresh people,” while yelling at the police, “You can’t stop this!”
“You were right,” McFadden said in court. “I don’t remember ever seeing a case where someone assaulted so many police officers in so short a span of time.”
Defense attorney Stanley Woodward said that while Klein was “embarrassed,” in his view, his involvement on Jan. 6 was “not a betrayal of his service to the government.” He said Klein “felt he was duty bound to be there to support the president,” and got caught up in “a protest turned violent.”
Klein worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, after nine years in the Marine Corps and stints working for a Virginia politician who has publicly denounced gay people as “perverts” and “freaks” and the Family Research Council, an anti-gay advocacy group. (Prosecutors say Klein refused to share information on that period in his life with a probation officer.) He joined the State Department after the election. Colleagues told Vice Magazine that Klein, who comes from a prominent Argentine family with ties to the military dictatorship of the 1970s and ‘80s, asked for and was granted a position dealing with South America, but was transferred to dealing with Freedom of Information Act Requests because of his lack of diplomatic skills or training.
Unlike many other rioters, prosecutors noted that Klein had a detailed understanding of the ploy Trump and his supporters thought could be used to throw the election.
“Jan. 6,” he texted an acquaintance in December. “Pence will refuse to certify the election, so it will get kicked into the house where each state gets one vote determined by its legislature. We would win that by a lot.” He predicted that Pence would go along with the plan because if he didn’t, “his political life is over.”
Pence confirmed President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, saying he had no power to change the results, and made that decision part of his 2024 presidential bid. He suspended his campaign last weekend, seeing that Republican primary voters remain loyal to Trump.
The Supreme Court rejected the idea that state legislatures had such unchecked power earlier this year.
Woodward, whose firm has been paid by Trump’s political action committee to defend several of the former president’s aides, said in court that the mob attack on the Capitol was “unforgivable,” and that “we cannot have a threat against our peaceful transfer of power again.” But, he said, “no one person caused the events of January 6.”