Bradley Rukstales, 53, of Inverness, Illinois, and the former CEO of data analytics firm Cogensia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols. In the 2020 election cycle, Rukstales gave more than $25,000 to then-President Trump’s campaign and Republican committees, according to The Associated Press.
Rukstales was one of a small number of Capitol riot defendants who were actually arrested on Jan. 6. He was taken into custody inside the Capitol complex after a group of rioters chased officers from the Capitol crypt (underneath the Capitol Rotunda) down into the Capitol Visitor Center.
In a statement after his arrest, Rukstales described himself as a “peaceful and law-abiding citizen” who condemned the “violence and destruction that took place in Washington.” But federal prosecutors pointed to surveillance footage that showed Rukstales, less than 30 seconds after rioters tossed chairs at officers down a staircase, tossing a chair in the direction of a line of officers.
“As Rukstales descended the stairwell to the CVC ― less than 30 seconds after besieged officers were forced to hastily retreat down it ― chairs that had been thrown at those officers lay strewn about the floor. There were signs of a violent riot everywhere, and he willingly joined it,” federal prosecutors wrote. “He picked up one of the chairs and belligerently hurled it in the direction of where the officers had fallen back.”
Prosecutors noted that officers were “dozens of feet away from Rukstales” and “not in danger of being hit.” Rukstales lawyer wrote there was “no evidence the chair was even damaged.”
Federal prosecutors said it took “three officers to effectuate the arrest of Rukstales” and that Rukstales “directly contributed” to law enforcement being overwhelmed because it took “at least three officers to get him under control during a volatile point in the overall attack on the Capitol.”
As a successful suburban Chicago businessman with a master’s degree who has “lived a life free of apparent economic hardship or family strife,” Rukstales “knew better than to join a mob in breaching the Capitol, hurl a chair in the CVC, and further beleaguer outnumbered and endangered police officers,” prosecutors said.
Rukstales pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor offense of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building” as part of a plea agreement. As with dozens of other defendants who pleaded guilty to that charge, three other charges were dropped at sentencing under the terms of the plea deal.
Rukstales, in a letter to the judge before his sentencing, claimed that he went into the U.S. Capitol “thinking that there may be someplace for us to protest inside” but was “obviously mistaken.” He wrote that he let his “emotions to get the better of me” but believed in “civic engagement,” while writing that he didn’t want to get into the details of his political beliefs and ideology.
“It is also fair to say that I was personally frustrated and concerned with our country’s political discourse after the 2020 election,” Rukstales said. “When I learned about the rally on January 6, it seemed to me that momentum was growing, and that the event would be an important constitutional moment in our republic’s history. That is why I came to Washington, D.C. on that day, and brought my family.”
Not all of his family agreed with his behavior or his politics, however. Rukstales’ eldest daughter, a teacher in her mid-20s, wrote in a letter to the judge that they “disagree politically” but that he shouldn’t be defined by his actions on Jan. 6.
“I am aware of my father’s charges. I do not condone his actions that have led to those charges. Politically, my father and I are on opposite sides. However, his actions on that day should not taint his character,” his daughter wrote. “In a phone conversation we had the other day, he told me that he believes he got too involved and he has learned how dangerous it is to get too deeply involved in a political movement instead of focusing on the love and service that Christ calls of us.”
Rukstales’ attorney argued that his client was different from Capitol riot defendants like Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who stormed the U.S. Capitol, sought a pardon from former President Trump and constantly downplayed her behavior on Jan. 6. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper dubbed Ryan a “cheerleader” for the Jan. 6 attack and sentenced her to 60 days in federal prison, which she’ll begin serving in January.
“Defendants like Jenna Ryan made post-arrest public statements reflecting a belief that she was immune from punishment because of her social status and a personal message that she would get off ‘Scott free,’” Rukstales’ lawyer wrote. “The Court sentencing Ms. Ryan understandably concluded that for her, incarceration was a necessary deterrent, unlike Mr. Rukstales, who has consistently and publicly expressed remorse for his participation.”
In a statement after his sentencing, Rukstales said he was “sorry for my actions that day and accept the court’s decision.” He said he had “come to realize the weight of my actions, and immensely regret following others into the Capitol.”
“I greatly appreciate the support of my family, friends, colleagues, and community. Their continued encouragement, and the grace they have shown me, are proof that one brief and thoughtless moment does not need to define a person’s entire life,” he said. “I look forward to putting this chapter behind me with the knowledge that in the years to come I will prove myself worthy of forgiveness by living the values that have guided me as a productive and peaceful citizen for the past 53 years.”
The FBI has made more than 650 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which represents roughly one-fourth of the total number of people who either unlawfully entered the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 or committed violence on Capitol grounds. The FBI is still looking for 350 people who committed violent acts that day, including 250 who attacked law enforcement officers.