Navy Sailor Who Got Video of Police Assault, Entered Capitol on Jan. 6 Avoids Jail Time and Probation

David Elizalde, circled in red, appears on security video inside the U.S. Capitol.
In this image from U.S. Capitol Police video, released and annotated by the Justice Department in the Statement of Facts supporting an arrest warrant, David Elizalde, circled in red, appears on security video inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (Justice Department via AP)

A Navy sailor who was convicted on a charge stemming from his participation in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, has managed to avoid jail time or probation after a judge sentenced him to 30 days of home detention and a $2,500 fine.

Petty Officer 1st Class David Elizalde argued in a sentencing memo that a probation sentence would have been "fatal" to his Navy career, which he wanted to salvage despite being convicted of one charge of violent entry and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds when a violent mob stormed the building hoping to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Stephen Brennwald, Elizalde's lawyer, told that they "knew that having a sailor on probation wouldn't really work if he was given orders to go back out to sea, or was shipped out, so the judge adopted our recommendation so that his sentence would be over quickly with no probationary term."

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Brennwald added that they were "thrilled that the judge agreed with our recommendation." Prosecutors had asked for 30 days in jail and probation of three years. The maximum sentence Elizalde faced was six months in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Elizalde captured video of a police officer being assaulted and also briefly entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 as hundreds of rioters broke through police lines, smashed windows and vandalized congressional offices following a rally held by former President Donald Trump, who falsely told attendees the election had been stolen.

Despite the favorable legal outcome for Elizalde, it is far from a guarantee that his career will be safe.

The Navy would not comment on the specifics of Elizalde's case or speculate on any additional legal processes for him, but one official noted that just because civilian legal punishments do not impede a sailor's ability to serve, that does not mean leaders can't pursue their own investigation or charges.

Elizalde, 46, joined the Navy in 2007 as an aviation structural mechanic, according to Navy records. After completing his training, he served aboard the USS Eisenhower and then the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carriers.

While assigned to the Truman carrier, Elizalde traveled to Falls Church, Virginia, and attended the events of Jan. 6 on the National Mall and at the Capitol.

Elizalde first attended the "Stop the Steal" rally where Trump urged those gathered to "fight like hell" and not concede the election to President Joe Biden, who won the vote. "Even before the speech ended, Elizalde joined the crowd heading to the Capitol building via Constitution Avenue," according to documents submitted by the prosecution.

The document also noted that at some point during that day, he bought a "Veterans for Trump" flag.

As the riot on the grounds of the Capitol intensified, Elizalde's own GoPro camera footage "graphically captured an attack" on a Capitol Police officer, and prosecutors noted that the petty officer "took no action to assist, help, defend, or otherwise protect the police officers as they were attacked by the riotous mob; rather, he remained part of the crowd."

Prosecutors also pointedly noted that he "did not disclose the existence of his GoPro or associated images or video to investigators."

His lawyer, in his own filing, argued that Elizalde was "a student of history" who simply had "a great deal of curiosity" about the day's events, and as a result, "he walked among the crowd, observing the events and alternately photographing or videotaping various scenes."

He ultimately made it inside the Capitol building for a few minutes before an officer directed him to leave, which he did.

His lawyer conceded that the Navy told all its sailors "through official email channels not to attend any 'January 6' events" but "unfortunately, because Mr. Elizalde was on shore leave at that time, he did not have access to military emails, and he never learned of this command."

Months later, in December 2021 and in early 2022, Elizalde was interviewed by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents about his activities that day, and he was eventually transferred from his post at the naval base in Rota, Spain, to the Washington Navy Yard, where he was arrested and charged.

Elizalde's record shows that among a host of unit and service awards, he received four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals.

Elizalde is one of a small handful of active-duty service members who participated in the riot that day.

The most senior service member charged is Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, whose trial is still ongoing. A trio of junior enlisted Marines who were all connected to the intelligence community were also arrested early last year. All three pleaded guilty last September and were sentenced to probation and community service.

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