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Filing details D.C. case against Conway man; he beat officer with flagpole, it says

by Bill Bowden | July 21, 2021 at 7:09 a.m.
Peter Francis Stager (Pulaski County sheriff's office & Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

A federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia filed a memorandum Tuesday that explains why five men -- including one Arkansan -- are charged in the same case involving the assault of police officers outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"The five Defendants in this matter were involved in a series of armed assaults against three Metropolitan Police Department officers," according to filing from Colleen D. Kukowski, assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

Peter Francis Stager, 42, of Conway was indicted by a federal grand jury in February on seven charges -- including assault for reportedly using a flagpole to beat a police officer who was already on the ground.

The other four defendants, charged in case No. 21-cr-35 along with Stager, are Jeffrey Sabol, Michael J. Lopatic Sr., Clayton Ray Mullins and Jack Wade Whitton.

The prosecutor's filing came on the eve of a status hearing in the case scheduled for today.

The officers are identified in Kukowski's filing only by their initials: B.M., A.W. and C.M.

The three officers were protecting the Capitol, wrote Kukowski. They were among Metropolitan Police Department officers "located in the tunnel and archway of the U.S. Capitol's Lower West Terrace, holding the police line to prevent rioters from gaining entry to the building," according to the memorandum.

"At approximately 4:27 p.m., unknown individuals began to assault A.W., knocking him to the ground in the archway," wrote Kukowski. "While A.W. was on the ground, Defendant Sabol stole A.W.'s baton from him, and Defendant Whitton began to strike at B.M. with a crutch and kick at A.W.

"Defendant Whitton eventually grabbed B.M. by the head and helmet, pulled him down and over A.W., and started to drag him down the steps in a prone position."

Whitton and Sabol "proceeded to drag B.M. into the crowd of rioters," according to the court filing.

"Once B.M. was dragged into the crowd, Defendant Stager began to beat B.M. with an American flag on a pole," wrote Kukowski. "Meanwhile, Defendant Mullins grabbed A.W.'s leg and pulled him into the crowd. Defendant Mullins also shoved B.M. in the head as B.M. attempted to climb up the stairs to return to the police line. As these assaults were occurring, C.M. reached out to rescue his colleagues, at which point Defendant Lopatic began to punch C.M. about the body and grabbed at his neck."

Lopatic then made his way through the crowd to B.M. and stole his body-worn camera, according to the court filing.

"As a result of the assaults, B.M. sustained minor bruising to his left shoulder and an abrasion to his nose and right cheek and A.W. suffered a laceration to his head that required two staples to close," wrote Kukowski.

According to a "statement of facts" filed by federal prosecutors in January, Stager told a confidential informant that he didn't know the man he was striking on the ground with the flagpole was a cop and that he thought the person he was striking was "antifa."

Kukowski's memorandum was an update on the status of discovery in the case.

The Jan. 6 riot escalated from a "Stop the Steal" rally in support of former President Donald Trump. The mob entered the Capitol and attempted to prevent Congress from recognizing Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election. Five people died in connection with the riot.

"The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Breach will be the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence," wrote Kukowski. "In the six months since the Capitol was breached, over 500 individuals located throughout the nation have been charged with a multitude of criminal offenses. ... There are investigations open in 55 of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 56 field offices."

The government has accumulated "voluminous materials" that may contain discoverable information for many of the defendants, wrote Kukowski. Among other things, those materials include thousands of hours of closed circuit video, thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage from police, and hundreds of thousands of tips, including at least 237,000 digital media tips.

All five have pleaded innocent.

Stager is charged with:

• 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1) and (b); Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers Using a Dangerous Weapon.

• 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2) and 2; Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Aiding and Abetting.

• 18 U.S.C. 231(a)(3); Civil Disorder.

• 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon.

• 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A); Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon.

• 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(4) and (b)(1)(A); Engaging in Physical Violence in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon.

• 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(F); Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building.

Matthew Wilson, an attorney with Price Benowitz LLP in Washington, D.C., has been retained to represent Stager, according to another filing in the case Tuesday.

Stager has remained in jail in the District of Columbia since his arrest in January.

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