By Crescenzo Vellucci
The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
AUBURN, CA – A federal judge late this past week sentenced an Auburn construction worker—who used bear spray against officers—to more than six years (78 months) in federal prison for his actions in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Sean Michael McHugh, 34, was the second Sacramento area man sentenced this past week for Jan. 6 crimes more than two years ago.
And, last Wednesday, Jorge Aaron Riley of Sacramento, who appeared to be one of the first people to illegally enter the U.S. Capitol in the Jan. 6 insurrection, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. He faced up to 20 years behind bars.
Riley, former corresponding secretary of the California Republican Assembly, was also sentenced to two years of supervised probation, and will have to pay $2,000 in restitution and a $100 fine. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony.
McHugh was convicted in April of “assaulting, resisting or impeding officers using a dangerous weapon and obstruction of an official proceeding,” according to the U.S. Attorney. He has been held in custody since May 27, 2021, making him eligible for 27 months time-served toward his 78 month sentence.
The judge said although McHugh said he regretted his actions, the court wasn’t convinced of the California man’s remorse, stating McHugh “admits to a lack of judgment, though not the magnitude of his actions.”
According to the federal complaint filed, McHugh “sprayed U.S. Capitol Police officers with an unknown chemical substance and assaulted them with a metal sign during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”
McHugh was one of the first to breach the police line at Capitol Hill’s West Plaza, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynnett Wagner said, adding McHugh injured and impeded police officers by wrestling for control of a barricade, dispensing bear spray and helping use a large metal sign “like a battering ram.”
The bear spray injured and temporarily prevented a couple of officers from defending the Capitol, said Wagner, adding McHugh “came prepared for violence.”
According to the Bee, “McHugh bragged about it in a direct Facebook message saying he ‘got three of them down really really good,’” adding that although McHugh did not enter the Capitol building, he brought a megaphone and urged fellow rioters to push forward and hurled insults at police officers.
Retired Lt. Dennis Kelly, bear sprayed by McHugh, described Jan. 6 as a “physical and chemical attack” in a statement, noting he and his daughter, who he said had “become a caretaker for him, were affected while decontaminating clothes from McHugh’s bear spray.”
Kelly added he has had two episodes of aphasia, a loss of ability to speak or comprehend speech. He said his family members were the “unseen and unheard victims of that day.” The emotional and physical toll Kelly took on Jan. 6 forced him into an early retirement, he said.
McHugh, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee, called Jan. 6 a “dark stain on our nation’s fabric,” adding “I would not have gone or put my mother’s well-being in danger” if he knew what was going to ultimately happen Jan. 6.