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Prison for Army vet who brought guns, Molotov cocktails to DC on Jan. 6

Lonnie Coffman told the judge in a letter that he “had no intentions to hurt anyone or destroy any property.”

WASHINGTON (CN) — A 72-year-old Army veteran who admitted he left loaded guns, machetes and 11 Molotov cocktails in a truck near the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been sentenced to 46 months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee, told Lonnie Coffman that he had a “small armory in his truck ready to do battle.”

“I don’t think in all my years as a judge I’ve had quite such a collection of weapons to deal with,” Kollar-Kotelly said. “These are very serious offenses.”

Coffman, of Falkville, Alabama, pleaded guilty in November to possession of destructive devices — the 11 Molotov cocktails — and carrying a pistol without a license in Washington, D.C. He also pleaded guilty to possession of destructive devices for another dozen Molotov cocktails found at his home in Alabama.

He was arrested on Jan. 6 and later indicted on 17 counts after police spotted his red GMC truck while conducting area searches near the Capitol after receiving reports of unexploded pipe bombs near the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Inside the truck, police discovered various loaded firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, a crossbow with bolts, machetes, camouflage smoke devices, a stun gun and a cooler containing 11 mason jars with ingredients for Molotov cocktails.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Friedman told the judge that Coffman’s decision to bring the weapons to the Capitol on the day that Congress’ was set to certify the results of the presidential election was “uniquely offensive to our cherished democratic political traditions.”

“The sentence imposed today should send a message to the defendant and to the public that unlawful possession of weapons, including homemade incendiary devices, Molotov cocktails will not be tolerated,” Friedman said.

Prosecutors sought 41 months’ imprisonment, while Coffman’s attorney, Manuel Retureta, insisted that his client had already served enough time behind bars. 

Retureta brought up Coffman’s advanced age and also noted that he has various health issues and will need shoulder replacement surgery in the upcoming months.

“And I think it’s exemplary of Mr. Coffman’s sense that he’s been honest throughout — he’s accepted responsibility throughout,” Retureta told the judge.

In a five-page handwritten letter to the judge, Coffman said he was “sorry for breaking the law” and he “learned a lesson about traveling with firearms and certain other items that I should not have had.”

“I had no intentions to hurt anyone or destroy any property and I did not do either,” Coffman wrote. “My objective was to try to discover just how true and secure was the election on November 3rd, 2020.”

In announcing his sentence, the judge acknowledged the letter and said she believes he is truly regretful.

“This is clearly your writing, in your views — I appreciate that,” Kollar-Kotelly said. “I think his letter shows remorse and an understanding that this was something he should not have done.”

But one question that remains, she said, is: “What was the purpose of driving to the nation’s capital with the weapons?”

“I think you’ve learned your lesson,” she told Coffman, “[but] I still don’t have an answer to the question.”

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