A California man whom prosecutors say was fixated on arresting Democratic leaders and training for combat with paintball fights after the 2020 presidential election was sentenced on Tuesday to more than four years in prison for his role in the U.S. Capitol riot.
Edward Badalian planned for weeks before he and a friend traveled from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., and joined a mob in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to prosecutors. They said Badalian organized group paintball sessions to train for a “firefight” and fantasized about meting out “vigilante justice” against politicians he believed to be “traitors.”
“He trained, collected weapons, and traveled across the country for the riot, with the goal of arresting and ‘violently removing’ politicians he disagreed with,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Badalian, 29, of Panorama City, California, to four years and three months of incarceration, according to a Justice Department news release.
The same judge convicted Badalian of Capitol riot charges in April after hearing trial testimony without a jury. His convictions include a felony count of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding — the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress for certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump.
One of Badalian’s travel companions and co-defendants, Daniel Rodriguez, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for his role in the attack. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to driving a stun gun into the neck of a police officer who was dragged into the crowd and beaten by other rioters.
Prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of 10 years and one month for Badalian, who has worked as a cabinet assembler.
Badalian created a Telegram group chat called “PATRIOTS 45 MAGA Gang” for he and other Trump supporters leading up the 2020 presidential election. He and Rodriguez used the forum to plan for “a violent revolution in which they personally planned to be at the forefront of a fight to overthrow government leaders they identified as traitors and tyrants,” prosecutors said.
On Dec. 21, 2020, Badalian posted that “we need to violently remove traitors and if they are in key positions rapidly replace them with able bodied Patriots.”
After the election, Badalian repeatedly encouraged others in the group chat to prepare for war by playing paintball, according to prosecutors.
“We need to know how to fight together while under fire,” he posted.
When another Telegram group member asked what he was training for, Badalian replied, “a firefight with armed terrorists.”
“For millions of Americans, paintball is a harmless form of entertainment and recreation. But that’s not how Badalian saw it,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
After Jan. 6, FBI agents questioned Rodriguez about the paintball sessions. He said Badalian was “probably using it as an excuse to go train or get in shape.”
“I tried listening to him and, like, he’d be like, ‘Okay, I’ll cover you. Go.’ And I remember one time I just — he’s like, go. And then as soon as I put my head up, I got shot in my face. So I’m like, okay. It’s not going to work,” Rodriguez told the agents, according to a transcript.
Badalian stayed with Rodriguez and others at an Airbnb home in Arlington, Virginia, on the eve of the riot. On Jan. 6, the group went to Washington for Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House. After listening to Trump’s speech, Badalian and Rodriguez parted ways as they approached the Capitol and joined the mob’s attack.
Badalian entered the Capitol through a broken window. Police forced him out of the building about four minutes later.
On his way back to California, Badalian was interviewed about Jan. 6 under the pseudonym “Turbo” on Infowars, the website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Another person on the show accidentally referred to him by his real first name.
Badalian was arrested in Los Angeles in November 2021.
Defense attorney Robert Helfend said Badalian didn’t engage in any violence or property destruction during his “4-minute misadventure” inside the Capitol.
“He did not suit up for combat nor did he carry a weapon,” Helfend wrote in a court filing.
Badalian believed Trump’s baseless claims about a stolen election. Badalian trusted Trump as a “dominant male” figure after growing up without his father, who moved to Russia when his son was 8 years old, according to his lawyer.
“Having no other trusted and overriding male in his life, Mr. Badalian believed Trump’s lies,” Helfend wrote.
More than 1,100 people have been charged with Jan. 6-related federal crimes. More than 650 have been sentenced, with approximately two-thirds receiving a term of incarceration ranging from three days to 22 years, according to an Associated Press review of court records.
A third defendant charged with Badalian and Rodriguez is a fugitive.
Also on Tuesday, a different federal judge sentenced two men to several years in prison for assaulting law enforcement during the Jan. 6 riot. Craig Bingert and Isaac Sturgeon grabbed a metal bike rack and shoved it against a police line outside the Capitol, injuring at least one officer, prosecutors said.
In May, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth convicted Bingert, a former Pennsylvania State Police cadet, and Sturgeon, a Montana lawn care business owner, after a trial without a jury. Lamberth sentenced Bingert to eight years in prison and Sturgeon to six years in prison, according to the Justice Department.