First Active-Duty Service Member Sentenced for Jan. 6 Hit with Lengthy Prison Time

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Insurrections break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington.
Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

James Phillip Mault was in the National Guard when he assaulted police during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Four months after taking part in the riot to upend the 2020 presidential election, he reenlisted in the active-duty Army, according to service records.

Mault, 30, who is still serving as an Army specialist, became the only active-duty service member convicted and sentenced for the pro-Trump attack after being arrested at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was sentenced July 15 to three and a half years in prison for felony assault on law enforcement – one of the longest sentences among those convicted so far for Jan. 6.

The case raises questions about the Army's ability to combat extremism, as well as its vetting of troops who want to reenlist, after court records showed Mault also had a conviction for driving while impaired.

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Federal prosecutors said he descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 to violently overturn the election results and was interviewed by investigators just weeks later. But he was still able to rejoin the Army -- even as the Defense Department announced a new effort to root out extremism in the ranks.

Mault is one of at least three National Guard members who assaulted the Capitol. Because he later reenlisted into the regular Army, he appears to be the first active-duty service member to be sentenced to prison in connection to the siege, according to data from George Washington University's Program on Extremism.

On the afternoon of Jan. 6, Mault, along with thousands of other rioters, breached the Capitol building in an effort to disrupt or overturn the election certification of President Joe Biden, according to court filings.

Mault, along with co-defendant Cody Mattice, 29, who does not have any known military connection, crawled over the top of other rioters toward a tunnel leading into the Capitol where law enforcement officers had retreated and were being assaulted by the crowd.

It was there that Mault and Mattice pepper-sprayed Metropolitan and Capitol police officers who were attempting to defend the Capitol.

Mault committed the assault while he was serving in the New York National Guard. His status as a Guard soldier may contribute to media reports referring to him simply as a veteran. But as far as the Army is concerned, Mault was on the military's part-time muster on Jan. 6 and, four months later, was a permanent, salaried member of the service.

Mault initially enlisted in the active Army as a Patriot missile operator in 2012, according to military records. The following year, he deployed to Kuwait for a year and in 2016 transitioned into the New York National Guard as a combat engineer.

Two years later, while still serving in the Guard, he was convicted of driving while impaired, according to the criminal history listed in federal court documents related to his Jan. 6 sentencing, though the details of the conviction are unclear. The offense is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but can be waived when enlisting into the regular military, depending on the severity of the case.

In May 2021, just four months after federal agents interviewed him for his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack, Mault reenlisted in the active-duty Army, where he is currently serving.

Military.com's attempts to contact Mault and his attorney, Richard S. Stern, were unsuccessful.

In addition to their sentences, Mault and Mattice owe $2,000 in restitution for damages at the Capitol; the Department of Justice says the total cost is over $1.4 million.

Mault does not have any known ties to extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers or Proud Boys, whose members now face seditious conspiracy charges related to Jan. 6. But his reenlistment came at a tenuous time for the DoD -- one month after Secretary Lloyd Austin announced an "immediate" initiative to counter extremism in the military.

"The [soldier's] command is aware of the conviction and is working the appropriate next steps," said Army spokesperson Matt Leonard. The military has been reluctant to take administrative action in cases of service members who are connected to Jan. 6 until convictions or sentencing.

The Army did not respond to a follow-up request for comment on how Mault was able to reenlist while under investigation for Jan. 6 and with a DWI. In October, HuffPost reported that the Army was not aware of his involvement in Jan. 6 prior to his reenlistment.

At least four days before the assault at the Capitol, both Mault and Mattice discussed traveling to Washington, D.C., from Rochester, New York, to attend former President Donald Trump's rally with the intent of meeting or inflicting violence, according to DoJ filings.

A day before the attack, the co-defendants discussed bringing gear, with Mault recommending to several rioters through text that they bring long-sleeved shirts, gloves, knives, batons, pepper spray, "asskicking" boots, helmets and eye protection.

According to testimony from the FBI special agent who investigated the case, Mault's father drove him and at least five others to D.C. to attend the rally.

Mault was identified partly from video of his hard hat, which sported stickers from his ironworker job -- employment he was fired from, according to The Washington Post. Mault claimed he brought the hard hat to protect himself from antifa – a loosely organized far-left group that has caused disruption and property damage at U.S. protests – according to the agent's statement.

An FBI special agent said it was an anonymous tip that identified Mault and that the tipster claimed to have seen a picture of him inside the Capitol.

Mattice filmed some of the pair's day, including recording himself that afternoon saying, "We're getting ready to go march on Capitol Hill. We're gonna go f--- some s--- up. It's about to be nuts."

He added, "Let's do this. Let's f---ing do this. I can't wait," while Mault stood beside him, according to DoJ filings.

Mault tried to convince officers to join the rioters during the initial afternoon breach of the police line.

"Your jobs will be here when you come back after we kick the s--- out of everyone," he said. Hours later, he would stand above a crowd of rioters at the opening of the Lower West Terrace tunnel of the Capitol and discharge pepper spray into the group of law enforcement officers blocking the entrance.

Less than two weeks later, Mault admitted to federal agents that he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though he claimed to have been pushed toward the building by the crowd and denied that he had assaulted anyone. In October, after video surfaced showing the assault, he was arrested at Fort Bragg, according to court documents.

More than 850 people have been arrested in connection to the Capitol attack. Over 260 have been charged with assaulting law enforcement.

The Department of Defense has come under scrutiny due to the number of Jan. 6 participants connected to the military. Six of the 11 Oath Keepers members indicted on seditious conspiracy charges are veterans, including the group's leader Stewart Rhodes. Four of the five Proud Boys indicted on those charges are veterans.

George Washington's Program on Extremism reports that, as of July, the federal government has leveled federal charges against 102 individuals with known military connections -- roughly 12% of total individuals charged. Other researchers estimate that closer to 120 rioters had military connections, but may be including those who were separated at basic training.

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @df_lawrence.

Related: Soldier Who Was First Service Member Charged After Jan. 6 Riot Is Being Removed from the National Guard

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