A butcher from Maine who wore a personalized white work coat as he attacked police officers at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was convicted Tuesday morning of six felonies and five misdemeanors after a trial where three officers testified they feared for their lives at points during the massive riot.
Kyle B. Fitzsimons, 39, of Lebanon, Maine, chose a bench trial before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras rather than a jury trial. After hearing testimony from the three officers in mid-August, but not from Fitzsimons, Contreras elected to deliberate on his verdict for more than a month. The judge then laid out his precise reasoning for guilty findings on each of the counts, including felonies such as obstruction of an official proceeding, using a dangerous or deadly weapon on officers and inflicting bodily injury on officers.
Neither side discussed possible sentencing ranges for Fitzsimons, who will face Contreras again Feb. 17. But Contreras ruled that the unstrung archery bow that Fitzsimons brought to the Capitol — and then hurled into the group of officers defending the lower West Terrace, bouncing off the helmet of one of them — was a “deadly and dangerous weapon.” Because the victims of the attack were police officers, and one sustained a serious injury, Fitzsimons could face eight years or more in prison, according to a federal sentencing guidelines calculator.
Fitzsimons has been held in jail since February 2021. He did not speak during Tuesday’s hearing.
Prosecutors showed that Fitzsimons posted a notice on a local Facebook page seeking fellow Maine residents to join him on the trip to Washington, and he left three voice mails on a state congressman’s office phone challenging him to contest the results of the 2020 presidential election. Photos and videos from his trial showed Fitzsimons attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, then walked down to the Capitol.
Video showed Fitzsimons outside the Capitol, and then making his way up to the hours-long skirmish between officers and rioters at the lower West Terrace tunnel. He can be seen hurling his unstrung bow into the tunnel, striking the helmet of D.C. Officer Sarah Beaver, who was not seriously hurt. Video also showed Fitzsimons grabbing and pulling the shoulder and shield of Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who suffered a partially torn rotator cuff and labrum, underwent surgery, and now faces a forced medical retirement from the Capitol Police.
Gonell was in the courtroom for part of the verdict Tuesday but left without commenting.
Video surrounding the assault on D.C. police Sgt. Phuson Nguyen was less clear. Nguyen testified that while he was battling with rioters, Fitzsimons reached over and pulled Nguyen’s gas mask off briefly, long enough for another rioter to spray Nguyen with some sort of chemical spray before Fitzsimons snapped the mask back onto Nguyen’s face, trapping the chemical irritant inside.
“At that point I was choking under the mask,” Nguyen testified. “I also got knocked down at the same time. … In my head, I thought that was it for me. I thought that’s where I’m going to die.” He said he broke the seal on his mask and a colleague dragged him to safety.
But Contreras agreed with defense attorney Natasha Taylor-Smith that Fitzsimons could not be clearly seen touching Nguyen, that Fitzsimons also had just been sprayed with chemicals and that Nguyen initially told the FBI a man in a gray jacket had grabbed his mask. The judge said that he had tried Nguyen’s gas mask on and that it could not be easily dislodged from the angle where Fitzsimons stood. Contreras convicted Fitzsimons of the assault on Nguyen but said the charge could not be enhanced for causing bodily injury. He did not make that same distinction in convicting Fitzsimons of the assault on Gonell.
A photo of a bloodied Fitzsimons was widely spread after the riot, leading Taylor-Smith to call him “the poster boy for Jan. 6.” But prosecutors suggested that the wound atop Fitzsimons’s head was actually inflicted by a metal crutch swung down on him by another rioter. After initially tussling with Gonell and hurling his bow toward Beaver, video showed Fitzsimons stepping back and then charging into the officers with arms flailing. At some point, his head was split open, requiring staples to close.
“Mr. Fitzsimons’s fervent belief in the lies he was told about the election is truly shocking,” Contreras said, “and some of the blame lies with the people who spread those lies.”
The judge said Fitzsimons “may have only played a small part, but he was an active participant, whose presence and violent interference with law enforcement officers” prolonged the insurrection and delayed Congress’s certification of the electoral college vote that day.