Court

Seabrook man sentenced to prison for role in U.S. Capitol insurrection

Christian Cortez, 28, was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to a felony count of civil disorder.

Christian Cortez-Capitol
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Christian Cortez, a 28-year-old Seabrook man, photographed himself at the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

A Seabrook man was sentenced to four months in federal prison earlier this week for his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Christian Cortez, 28, pleaded guilty in May to a felony charge of civil disorder for obstructing and accosting police officers as they tried to secure the Capitol building and control a crowd of Donald Trump supporters who disrupted a joint session of Congress and attempted to prevent lawmakers from certifying the 2020 presidential election results in favor of Joe Biden.

Along with his prison sentence, Cortez received three years' supervised release and was ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution along with a $100 special assessment, according to federal court documents.

In an Aug. 19 letter addressed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Cortez accepted responsibility for his role in the insurrection, which caused five deaths, injured more than 100 police officers and resulted in more than $2.7 million in damages and losses, according to court records. The U.S. Department of Justice said in May that more than 800 people from nearly all 50 states had been arrested for crimes related to the Capitol breach.

"At the time I believed I was doing the right thing," Cortez wrote. "Reflecting on my actions I understand that it was not my place and my very presence interfered with the officers who were doing their jobs. These officers were understaffed for the size of this incident and by being there I only contributed to these hardships."

Cortez's attorney, Amr Ahmed, an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Texas, did not immediately respond to a Thursday voicemail seeking comment.

Christian Cortez-Capitol Police
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Federal prosecutors used this photo of Christian Cortez as evidence of his involvement in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Court records show that Cortez and Benjamin Larocca, also a 28-year-old Seabrook man, drove together from Texas to Washington D.C. on Jan. 4, 2021 to attend Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally two days later. From there they joined a crowd that marched to the Capitol and stormed the building, with Cortez and Larocca entering a little before 3 p.m. and staying inside for about 13 minutes, according to court documents.

Cortez had a subsequent confrontation with officers outside the building's North Doors, where he attempted to keep them from closing the doors and shouted obscenities at them along with calling them "oath breakers," according to court records, which say Cortez subsequently taunted officers after he was sprayed with a chemical irritant.

In court filings, federal prosecutors cited "selfie" photos and social media posts by Cortez and Larocca as evidence of their involvement in the insurrection. Cortez posted a photo on Instagram that showed him standing near Capitol police with the caption, "Just hanging with the besties," and he subsequently commented, "I will fight for your freedom until I die," court documents show.

Larocca pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of government business, the justice department announced in May. Court records show Larocca was sentenced Aug. 10 to 60 days in jail, one year of supervised release, a $2,000 fine, $500 in restitution and a $25 special assessment.

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