Washington — A member of the far-right Proud Boys group who was convicted on charges that included assaulting police during the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and later cut off his ankle monitor in an attempt to flee from law enforcement was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday.
Christopher Worrell, of Florida, was convicted of seven counts at a bench trial last year after prosecutors alleged he sprayed law enforcement officers during the attack as they defended the north side of the Capitol against a large group of rioters.
In remarks to the judge before sentencing, Worrell emotionally characterized his conduct on Jan. 6 as “inexcusable and unjustified” and said he was “truly sorry” to law enforcement and members of Congress.
“Nearly three years ago today, I made some choices I sincerely regret,” he told D.C. District Judge Royce Lamberth.
In August, Worrellat his sentencing hearing in Washington, D.C., and Lamberth issued a bench warrant for his arrest. The FBI issued an alert asking for assistance in finding Worrell, and he was ultimately weeks later as he tried to return to his home.
Court documents filed after Worrell’s arrest revealed his disappearance triggered an FBI manhunt. After law enforcement located him at his home, he allegedly “pretended” he had suffered a drug overdose in order to delay his capture, a characterization Worrell and his defense rejected during Thursday’s hearing.
Prosecutors said in court documents that the FBI entered Worrell’s home on Sept. 28 after staking out his residence.
“Inside, they found Worrell, seemingly unresponsive, with an opened bottle of opioid prescription medication in his hand,” prosecutors said in court documents. They performed what they thought were lifesaving procedures and transported Worrell to the hospital. The government later learned this was all a ruse on Worrell’s part. Prosecutors say he had pretended to have a medical emergency as a delay tactic to stall the government’s investigation.
Before his disappearance, the Justice Department had asked the judge to send Worrell to prison for 14 years. Newer court records urged the judge to increase prison time to account for his fleeing.
“Worrell triggered a manhunt and enormous waste of government resources. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office spent six weeks tracking Worrell, obtaining multiple warrants, many subpoenas, and other legal processes, all while sending leads throughout the country — from New York to South Carolina to Texas to California to Oregon — to track down tips about his location,” they wrote.
Prosecutors said Thursday that Worrell had a history of being dishonest with officials since his arrest and “actively deceived” law enforcement.”
In court, Worrell told Lamberth about his medical history, which includes a rare form of lymphoma that he said requires continued treatment. He said he fled last year upon learning he could spend many years in prison and attempted several times to take his own life.
Worrell said he “freaked out” when he returned to his home and heard police demanding he exit the residence, contending he took the bottle of pills in a moment of panic.
The case first attracted attention in 2021 after Lamberth held the warden of the Washington, D.C., jail in civil contempt after Worrell complained that he was not getting proper care for an injury while he was in custody. His attorneys also argued that he was not receiving adequate treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
D.C. jail officials were held in contempt after they failed to provide the judge with the medical documentation that he had requested. Lamberth released Worrell to home confinement as his case was further litigated.
In court Thursday, the judge said he thought “some good things” came out of the process, like holding D.C. jail officials accountable. Worrell himself credited the judge with “saving” his life by intervening, and Lamberth acknowledged Worrell’s serious medical history and said it was part of the reason why he did not sentence him to more time in prison.
Worrell’s defense attorney had argued for a lighter sentence of 30 months in home detention, citing his health condition. William Shipley, his attorney, asked the judge for leniency, arguing the seconds it took to pull the trigger of the spray at police should not result in a severe sentence.
“Had he not depressed the trigger on that pepper spray,” Shipley said, “would he even be charged?”
Lamberth, however, took issue with some of Worrell’s testimony at trial and characterization of the charges against him as those of a “political prisoner,” rejecting the defense’s contention that Worrell came armed with the spray for self-defense reasons, and not to attack police.
Shipley also told the judge that Worrell’s disappearance wasn’t intended to show disrespect for the court, but instead stemmed from his fears. Worrell revealed Thursday he had told friends on a monitored line that he faked a drug overdose because he was embarrassed.
“Please forgive me and have mercy on me,” Worrell pleaded with the judge.
Lamberth said he would urge officials to assign Worrell to a federal medical facility instead of prison so he will be able to receive appropriate treatment for his conditions.