On a day of surreal, unnerving scenes, one stuck out — a man carrying a massive Confederate flag through the U.S. Capitol.
On Thursday, the man who brandished that flag during the Capitol riot, drywall installer Kevin Seefried, was sentenced to three years in prison for his actions.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden called it “deeply offensive” to “use a Confederate flag … as a weapon against an African American officer” — Eugene Goodman of the U.S. Capitol Police, who stood alone against rioters as they entered the building and was chased by Seefried and others.
“Even putting aside the racist connotations, which you said you did not intend,” McFadden said, it was “appalling” that a symbol of secessionism was used to threaten an officer protecting our democratic process.
Seefried said he did not intend to represent white supremacy or insurrection, merely a spirit of protest, by bringing to Washington a Confederate flag that had previously hung outside his home.
“I never meant to send a message of hate,” he said in court. He apologized to the Capitol Police officers, saying he was “deeply sorry for my part in Jan. 6, 2021.”
In sentencing papers, public defenders Elizabeth Mullin and Eugene Ohm said Seefried, who grew up in a poor, abusive household, did not understand the meaning of the banner he held.
“He was taught that the flag was a symbol of an idealized view of southern life and southern heritage,” they wrote. “Lacking an education beyond the ninth grade and lacking even average intellectual capacity, Mr. Seefried did not appreciate the complex and, for many, painful, history behind the Confederate battle flag.”
Seefried came to Washington on Jan. 6 with his wife; his 21-year-old son, Hunter, who was sentenced in December to two years of incarceration; and his son’s girlfriend. He and Hunter marched with the crowd from Trump’s speech on the Ellipse to the Capitol, becoming separated from the two women along the way.
“I wish that I had stepped up and put a stop to this idea,” Stephanie Seefried wrote in a letter to the court before her son’s sentencing in December. “But I did not.”
She has since left her husband.
“I lost my son and I lost my wife,” Kevin Seefried said in court. “I made a terrible mistake, and my family has suffered because of it.”
The father and son climbed over a wall of the Capitol to a lightly protected landing on the Senate side, where rioters were smashing the windows. They climbed through, among the first to enter the building and confront police inside.
The elder Seefried jabbed repeatedly at Goodman with the flag and chased him up a flight of stairs, according to the trial testimony. Goodman said Seefried refused to leave and demanded to know where the lawmakers were. When Goodman was joined by reinforcements, Seefried berated the officers for “protecting … liars and thieves.”
Ohm said in court that Seefried was only repeating the words of those around him and did not know where in the Capitol he was or how the election process worked. Seefried is planning to appeal his conviction on the charge of obstructing an official proceeding.
McFadden said he accepted that Seefried’s remorse was “genuine” but did not believe any intellectual limitations were relevant to a crime that did not involve “sophisticated issues.”
“You had every reason to know you shouldn’t be there,” McFadden said.
The defense attorneys said that Seefried has already suffered mental anguish for his actions and that as a rectal cancer survivor who uses a colostomy bag, he is at a higher risk of infection in prison.
Seefried’s daughter said in a letter to the court that her father has been wrongly villainized as a racist. She has a biracial 3-year-old son, she said, who stays with his grandfather several days a month.
“My son’s father has been to my dad’s house for Thanksgiving, Christmas and many other occasions and my dad has always treated him with respect and he adores his grandson more than life itself,” she wrote.
The Jan. 6 insurrection
The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.
The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.