Mason Joel Courson during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice.
By Kevin Deutsch
A Tamarac man pleaded guilty Wednesday to beating a law enforcement officer with a police baton during the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors said.
Mason Joel Courson, 27, took part in the violence that saw rioters attempt to stop the congressional certification of Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
After beating the officer with the baton, Courson kept the weapon and took it back to his Tamarac home as a possible “trophy,” according to court records.
Courson pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31, 2023, according to the Department of Justice.
Courson was part of a mob that confronted law enforcement officers at the Archway and tunnel areas leading into the Capitol Building from the Lower West Terrace on January 6.
By about 4:20 p.m., hundreds of rioters were gathered in that area, some throwing and swinging objects at law enforcement officers.
During the violence, at about 4:27 p.m., another rioter, Jack Wade Whitton, climbed over a railing and began striking an officer with a walking crutch and kicking him, prosecutors said.
Whitton then grabbed the officer and dragged him down the steps. According to DOJ, he and others dragged the officer into the crowd.
That’s when Courson, stationed at the bottom of the steps, beat the officer with a police baton, officials said.
The officer suffered physical injuries, including bruising and abrasions.
Courson is among a group of eight rioters being prosecuted as part of a single indictment. Three others have pleaded guilty: Whitton, 32, of Locust Grove, Georgia; Justin Jersey, 32, of Flint, Michigan; and Logan James Barnhart, 42, of Holt, Michigan. All are awaiting sentencing.
Four others have pleaded not guilty and are involved in court proceedings.
Court filings said Courson left Florida with a friend on January 4, 2021, to attend the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally held by then-President Donald Trump in Washington.
While at the rally, Courson posted a picture on social media with the caption, “I’m here to #stop the steal,” referring to Trump’s false claims he won the election.
“[Courson] was among those seeking to ‘battering ram’ their way through officers protecting the entrance and actually entered the Capitol,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Jared M. Strauss wrote in a December 23, 2021, detention order issued for Courson in Fort Lauderdale federal court. “Even more significantly, he attempted to injure another person–specifically [one] officer…by striking him with the baton and [a second] officer…by assisting in dragging him down the stairs.”
During his post-Miranda statement to the FBI, [Courson] “admitted to exchanging blows with officers” and to attacking the officer with the baton, Strauss wrote. He also said, “he felt striking the officers was ‘justified.’”
Courson told FBI agents the violent scene on the Capitol grounds was like being in a “war zone” and that he felt like he was engaged in a “battle,” according to court records.
“He stated that he felt these officers [at the Capitol] were not ‘thin blue line’ but rather were traitors,” the records state.
On December 14, 2021, around ten FBI agents, along with a SWAT team, executed a search warrant on Courson’s home in Tamarac, records show. They found the baton he had used during the Capitol attack, along with two firearms and the clothes he had worn during the riots, according to the documents.
Courson, a father, and businessman who sells audio equipment, has a criminal history that includes several arrests between 2013 and 2018, including busts for battery, grand theft, and resisting arrest without violence, the records show.
In the 22 months since January 6, 2021, nearly 900 people have been arrested in almost every state for crimes related to the U.S. Capitol breach. More than 275 of them have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, according to the DOJ.
The FBI investigation into the crimes committed on January 6 is ongoing. Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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