A Florida Proud Boys member whose medical mistreatment at the D.C. jail led a judge to order his pretrial release and to find jail authorities in contempt of court 19 months ago was convicted Friday of assaulting police, rioting and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Christopher Worrell, 52, of Naples, Fla., was found guilty after a five-day bench trial on all seven counts, including felony charges of obstructing Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election results and assaulting police with a deadly or dangerous weapon by spraying three officers with pepper gel.
Worrell and co-defendant Daniel Lyons Scott were previously described as “tools,” or examples of Proud Boys whose actions on Jan. 6 were orchestrated or inspired by four leaders of the right-wing group found guilty last week of seditious conspiracy. Worrell interacted with former Proud Boys chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and knew by name the group’s Jan. 6 march co-leader, Ethan Nordean. Worrell was seen on Jan. 6 moving with Scott, known as “Milkshake.” Scott was recorded yelling during the Proud Boys march, “Let’s take the f—–g Capitol!” — and told by leaders to remain silent — even before President Donald Trump directed angry supporters to the Capitol.
But Friday, before setting sentencing for Aug. 18, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said his verdict was “not the product of guilt by association.”
“Even focusing on what Mr. Worrell said, did and knew, [his] purpose to impede or obstruct the electoral college certification has been proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt,” Lamberth said. “He wanted the mob to take the Capitol. … No one can doubt that he did actually spray that pepper gel,” the judge said.
Prosecutors produced images recorded from multiple angles showing that Worrell sprayed in the direction of police and that three officers reacted to being hit at the same time and place. They also cited supporting witness testimony, as well as Worrell’s shifting and conflicting statements from the stand and to the FBI.
Defense attorney William Shipley argued that the government’s case was circumstantial, not conclusive. He also argued that Worrell’s actions may have been reckless but not intended to cause bodily injury, and that he did not enter the Capitol building itself, instead backed away from police lines well before the building was breached. Prosecutors had “taken misdemeanor conduct and converted into a felony,” Shipley said in closing arguments, criticizing the obstruction charge against his client.
Lamberth concluded it was “preposterous” for Worrell to claim he was a “lone hero” that day helping police by spraying far-left agitators. Worrell belied that explanation in statements that day and in following days, including when he celebrated his actions and those of Scott, who “body-slammed” two officers guarding a stairway leading toward the building, triggering a critical breach of a second police line.
Prosecutor William Dreher said Worrell participated in multiple recorded communications before and after the riot discussing stopping the electoral vote certification, storming the Capitol and confronting police. Dreher said Worrell shouted at law enforcement that morning, yelling “Honor your oaths!” and “Don’t make us fight against you!”
Worrell is a cancer survivor, living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His defense attorney and the judge noted his medical mistreatment by the jail and his ongoing condition. Lamberth allowed Worrell to remain on home release pending sentencing, saying he was not a flight risk, adding that the court would ensure that his health needs are “taken under adequate consideration.”
Scott pleaded guilty to two counts, assaulting police and obstructing Congress’s joint session, and faces sentencing May 23.
Lamberth in October 2021 found the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court, finding that jail officials failed to turn over information needed to approve surgery recommended four months earlier for Worrell’s broken wrist while in custody. Lamberth conditionally released Worrell after eight months.
The court order in the Jan. 6 case punctuated years of mounting frustration over conditions in the 45-year-old jail, which housed about 1,500 prisoners at the time. The U.S. Marshals Service subsequently announced plans to transfer hundreds of pretrial federal detainees to a federal prison in Pennsylvania after a surprise inspection found evidence of “systemic” mistreatment of inmates, including unsanitary living conditions and the punitive denial of food and water, officials said.
The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs last month filed a federal lawsuit against the jail, seeking class-action status to stop what it described as the unconstitutional treatment of prisoners injured by the government’s deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs.