UPDATE: A Middlesex County man must spend the next two years in federal prison for stuffing a rag into the gas tank of a police cruiser and setting it on fire during a riot in Trenton following a protest last year over the death of George Floyd.
Justin Spry, 22, of South Plainfield originally claimed on Twitter that he was brutalized by police, but federal authorities produced surveillance video showing otherwise.
Spry and two other men involved in the arson attack took deals from the government rather than go to trial. All must serve out their entire sentences because there's no parole in the federal prison system.
Although the May 31, 2020 protest in Trenton was peaceful earlier in the day, violence erupted later.
Several rioters ran down East State Street in downtown Trenton, smashing storefronts, looting stores, and attacking marked police vehicles.
A city surveillance camera and cellphone video captured Kareem Dockery of Trenton lighting a makeshift Molotov cocktail and throwing it through the open front driver’s side of one of the police cars, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said.
Dockery then pulled off his shirt and handed it to Killian Melecio of Columbus, who was joined by Spry in trying to stuff it into the gas tank and light it, the U.S. attorney said.
Police grabbed Spry as Melecio and Dockery fled, Honig said.
Authorities said they reviewed street-camera surveillance videos, as well as footage shot on cellphones and posted on social media that led to the identification and August arrests of both men, thanks to distinctive tattoos (Tattoos Help ID Men In Trenton Protest Firebombings, FBI Says).
Spry pleaded guilty this past March to “attempting to obstruct, impede, or interfere with law enforcement officers during a civil disorder.” (Middlesex Man Admits Trying To Torch Trenton Police Car Following Floyd Protest)
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti sentenced Spry via videoconference on Thursday to three years of supervised release, Honig said.
Melecio pleaded guilty this past January and was sentenced in June to 28 months in federal prison (First Convict Sentenced Federally In Trenton Protest Firebombings).
Dockery pleaded guilty in May is scheduled to be sentenced next Tuesday (Final Defendant In Trenton Police Car Firebombing Takes Guilty Plea In Federal Court).
Dockery also still faces state charges of throwing another firebomb at New Jersey State Police troopers during the riot (Trenton Rioter Threw Makeshift Molotov Cocktail At State Troopers, New Indictment Charges).
A fourth man, Earlja J. Dudley of Trenton, also pleaded guilty to participating in the arson attack. Honig didn't address the status of his case (Last Of Trenton Police Car Firebombers Pleads Guilty In Federal Court).
Honig credited special agents of the FBI and officers with the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark with the investigation leading to the arrests and pleas, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander E. Ramey and Michelle Gasparian of her Criminal Division in Trenton.
She also thanked Trenton police, New Jersey State Police and officers with the state Department of Corrections for their assistance.
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