A former Inverness tech executive is scheduled Friday to become the first Illinoisan sentenced for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Bradley Rukstales, 53, pleaded guilty in August to willfully and knowingly parading, demonstrating and picketing inside the Capitol, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
In court filings in U.S. District Court in Washington last week, prosecutors asked for a sentence of 45 days in jail, saying Rukstales’ actions that day were part of a “large and violent riot that relied on numbers to overwhelm law enforcement” and disrupt the proceedings in Congress to certify the results of November 2020 presidential election.
“But for his actions alongside so many others, the riot likely would have failed,” prosecutors wrote.
Rukstales’ lawyer, David Benowitz, has argued for probation, saying his client had no intention of “jump-starting a revolution” when he traveled to Washington to attend a rally by then-President Donald Trump. A devout Christian and a charitable family man, Rukstales’ public and professional demise has already served as a tough penalty, Benowitz said.
Rukstales was president and CEO of the Schaumburg-based tech company Cogensia. It placed him on leave the day he was charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and a day later it fired him, saying his actions were inconsistent with the company’s core values.
Rukstales, who campaign finance records show contributed thousands of dollars to Trump’s 2020 campaign, said in a written statement just after the riot that he followed others into the Capitol to see what was happening, and that he regretted his participation.
“Without qualification and as a peaceful and law-abiding citizen, I condemn the violence and destruction that took place,” he wrote. “It was the single worst personal decision of my life; I have no excuse for my actions and wish that I could take them back.”
According to his plea agreement, Rukstales was among a group of rioters who confronted police in the Capitol’s crypt, a circular room beneath the rotunda. Rukstales threw a chair that had fallen to the bottom of a stairwell toward officers, though they were far enough away that they were in no danger of being struck by it.
When Rukstales refused commands to leave, an officer brought him to the ground, dragged him behind a police line and arrested him, according to court filings.
In pleading guilty, Rukstales told U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols that he wasn’t trying to hit anyone with the object.
“I was very careful when I threw the chair that no one was in striking distance,” he said.
Prosecutors had a different take.
“His hurling of the chair was a belligerent action,” they said. “It was not tossed in a manner as if to get it out of the way or because he was concerned for the safety of others.”
The former CEO is among 14 Illinoisans to be charged in the Capitol breach, part of a criminal investigation prosecutors have described as one of the largest in American history. Two Downstate men, Douglas K. Wangler and Bruce J. Harrison, pleaded guilty to their roles shortly after Rukstales and are awaiting sentencing.
Other Illinois residents currently facing prosecution include John Schubert, 71, and his wife, Amy, 61, of Crest Hill, charged in July with unlawful entry of a government building and disorderly conduct. Both charges are misdemeanors.
Also charged in July was Shane Jason Woods, 43, of Auburn, who was accused of assaulting members of the media and tripping a police officer who was running from bear spray during the Capitol unrest.
Chicago police Officer Karol Chwiesiuk was accused of breaching the building with the mob and entering the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Another man, Christian Kulas, 24, of Kenilworth, was arrested on charges alleging he posted video of himself on Instagram storming the Capitol building during the siege while wearing a designer coat and pro-Trump hat.
Chicago Tribune’s John Keilman contributed to this story.
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