Skip to main content

‘He Was Your Prey’: Judge Deals 7.5-Year Sentence to U.S. Capitol Rioter Who Delivered Officer Michael Fanone by His Neck to a Violent Mob

Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone listens during a July 27, 2021 hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)

Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department officer Michael Fanone listens during a July 27, 2021 hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images.)

A U.S. Capitol rioter who dragged Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone to a violent horde after pretending to help him will spend the next 7.5 years behind bars, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

“He was your prey,” declared U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson before she pronounced the sentence. “He was your trophy.”

Tennessee resident Albuquerque Cosper Head was one of the defendants charged on a three-person indictment relating to Fanone’s brutal assault, but as noted by the judge, Head served as the catalyst for the attack. Rioters beat, Tasered and robbed Fanone of his radio and his badge. In his congressional testimony, Fanone recounted hearing one shout “Kill him with his own gun!” and trying to quell the mob by shouting “I have kids.”

As recounted by Jackson, Head’s violence on Jan. 6 did not start with Fanone, and he engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” with a line of officers protecting the doors at the Capitol tunnel — a melee described as a “brutal, two-hour Medieval battle.” Throngs of rioters tried to break into the building by attempting to push through an “under-manned, exhausted, ad hoc police line,” the judge noted.

Video showed Head using a police shield as a weapon and trying to jockey to the front of the line.

After reaching Fanone, Head could be heard boasting “Hey, I’ve got one” and was quoting telling him “Hey, I’m going to try to help you out here. You hear me?”

Fanone was heard responding: “Thank you,” seemingly unaware of the group attack that awaited him.

In a 21-page sentencing memo, Head’s attorney Nicholas Wallace described his client’s interactions with Fanone as getting “entangled” with the officer. The judge bristled at the euphemism.

“C’mon,” Jackson scoffed, comparing entanglement to what happens to the leashes of two dogs. “You cannot minimize what happened by using less objectionable verbs.”

The defense sentencing memo emphasized the entire interaction lasted some 35 seconds, but Jackson countered that the life-changing events for Fanone counted more than the ticks of a clock. Not all of the Jan. 6th rioters were bloodthirsty, but some were, the judge noted.

She added that Head, at that moment, was not drawing distinctions.

Inside the court, and weeping at the pronouncement of the verdict, was Head’s fiancée. She and other loved ones of the defendant poured in letters to the court emphasizing Head’s overcoming addictions — to alcohol, Oxycontin, and methamphetamine. Now the father of two daughters, Head became clean after a string of mostly minor offenses and a felony that predated the Jan. 6 attack. As even his defense counsel acknowledged, those crimes added up. Prosecutors counted roughly 45 prior arrests, but his family attested to Head’s seeming transformation — that is, before the attack on the Capitol.

Speaking of his letters of support, the judge noted: “They are raw. They are honest. They are true.”

She quoted a passage from the fiancée’s as saying: “It’s the women who will suffer,” noting the difficulties of raising children with the father in jail.

Yet Jackson countered that she could not overlook the suffering felt by the family of Head’s victim, whom she noted was ironically attacked under a “Blue Lives Matter” flag.

“He was protecting the very essence of democracy,” Jackson said. “He was protecting America.”

Fanone, watching the proceedings in the courtroom, sat at wide attention during the judge’s address. He spoke in court of his own reflections of that day before the sentence was delivered. He then left the courtroom without comment, putting on dark sunglasses and taking no questions from reporters. He is now a CNN on-air contributor.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."