A member of the far-right Proud Boys group got a 10-year prison term Thursday for participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The defendant, Christopher Worrell, missed his first scheduled sentencing hearing, in August, after he fled home detention and vanished for weeks, according to authorities, who said he later purposely took a drug overdose to further delay the proceedings.
Worrell, 52, of Naples, Fla., was convicted of multiple felonies May 13 in U.S. District Court in Washington. The charges included assaulting three police officers with pepper-spray gel during the Capitol riot as mobs of supporters of President Donald Trump sought to halt the formal counting of 2020 electoral votes by members of Congress.
“According to the government’s evidence, Worrell plotted his trip to D.C. with other Proud Boys” weeks before Jan. 6, the U.S. attorney’s office in the District said in a statement after the sentencing. He took part in “conversations in which the police were called traitors and Proud Boys brainstormed ways to disrupt” the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, the statement said.
“Worrell arrived in the District ready for battle, wearing body armor, and carrying two cans of Sabre Red Maximum Strength Pepper Gel and a large radio to coordinate” with other rioters, the statement said.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth released Worrell from the D.C. jail in 2021 and placed him under house arrest in Florida after learning that Worrell had not been treated properly at the jail for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a broken wrist.
After his conviction, Worrell was allowed to remain on home detention while awaiting sentencing, initially set for August. Four days before the scheduled hearing, authorities said, Worrell cut off his GPS ankle monitor in a Walmart parking lot and fled. Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Dreher said Worrell’s disappearance triggered a six-week manhunt that ended when Worrell attempted to “covertly return to his house” in late September.
When FBI agents entered the residence, Dreher said, they found Worrell “seemingly unresponsive” with “an opened bottle of opioid prescription medication in his hand.” He was hospitalized for five days. In a sentencing memo filed in court, prosecutors said a friend later asked Worrell in an email if he had been trying to commit suicide, and that Worrell replied: “It was a stupid delay tactic.”
Worrell was found guilty of seven counts, including obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential electoral results, engaging in violence on Capitol grounds and assaulting the three officers. During his nonjury bench trial, Worrell argued that he helped police by pepper-spraying left-wing agitators of the riot. Lamberth, at the trial, rebuked the claim as “preposterous.”
“He can’t say that he is a political prisoner and what he did was justified,” Lamberth said Thursday. “The court can’t send a message saying it was okay. It wasn’t okay.”
Through muffled sobs, Worrell told the judge that his actions had been “inexcusable and unjustified.” He described the drug overdose as a delaying tactic to avoid humiliation. When he heard the FBI officials shout his name as they entered his home that September day, he said, the thought of returning to the D.C. jail caused him to swallow a bottle of pills.
“You very likely saved my life sending me home,” Worrell said to Lamberth of his earlier placement under house arrest. “I sincerely meant no disrespect or embarrassment to the court. I suffered a severe mental breakdown.”
Officials previously described Worrell and co-defendant Daniel Lyons Scott as “tools,” meaning their actions were orchestrated or inspired by the four leaders of the right-wing group who were found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
Scott, who was sentenced in July to five years in prison, “bulldozed two officers” guarding a staircase leading up from the lower West Terrace, prosecutors said. Officials alleged that Scott’s assault helped clear the way for a mob led by fellow Proud Boys members to “open up the whole west side of the Capitol.” Worrell is seen moving with Scott in video footage.
William Shipley, Worrell’s attorney, said Worrell acted recklessly by taking out the spray but did not intentionally harm police. He added that Worrell did not enter the Capitol building itself.
Lamberth said the case was a “hard one” for him, knowing the defendant’s history with cancer. After imposing the sentence, he said, “I don’t want to see you die in prison.”