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Falkville man who had Molotov cocktails at Capitol riot pleads for mercy

By Eric Fleischauer

For the Enquirer

A Falkville man who will be sentenced by a federal district court April 1 after pleading guilty to having Molotov cocktails and a large cache of firearms while at the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot has said in a handwritten court filing that he was in D.C. to determine whether the election had been stolen.

In a letter requesting a reduced sentence from the judge, Lonnie Leroy Coffman, 72, who has been in D.C. and Pennsylvania jails since Jan. 6, 2021, also complained of the food and the “very unbridled and unsavory” guards at the jail and asked for any parole conditions to be liberal enough to allow him to take a vacation after his release.

“I came to Washington, D.C., alone,” Coffman wrote in the memo filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “My objective was to try to discover just how true and secure was the election on November 3rd, 2020. Did my vote go to the people I intended it to?”

Coffman was initially charged with 17 counts, but in a plea agreement entered Nov. 12, he pleaded guilty to two: possession of an unregistered firearm and carrying a pistol without a license.

According to the plea agreement, possession of an unregistered firearm – which incorporates both his possession of guns and Molotov cocktails – carries a maximum sentence of 46 months. Carrying a pistol without a license in violation of a D.C. law carries a maximum five-year sentence.

In his request for a reduced sentence, Coffman wrote that he accepted full responsibility for his actions.

“I had no intentions to hurt anyone or destroy any property, and I did not do either,” he wrote.

Coffman’s sentencing request was filed Wednesday – the same day 34-year-old Joshua James, of Arab, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.

According to his plea agreement, James conspired with other members of Oath Keepers before the Capitol riot and was among those who entered the Capitol building. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.

According to Capitol Police, video surveillance showed Coffman parking his truck near the Capitol building at 9:15 a.m. Jan. 6, 2021. He was arrested about 6:30 p.m. that day as he attempted to return to the vehicle. He had two handguns in his pockets when detained, police said.

The federal magistrate and Capitol Police listed the following items found in his pickup truck:

• 11 mason jars containing a flammable liquid, with a hole punched in the top of each jar

• Lighters and rags

• A crossbow with bolts

• Several machetes

• Camouflage smoke devices

• A stun gun

• A loaded 9mm Hi-Point handgun

• A loaded Windham Weaponry semiautomatic rifle with scope

• A loaded Hatfield Gun Co. SAS shotgun

• Several large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices loaded with more than 10 rounds of rifle ammunition

• Hundreds of rounds of ammunition

According to a notice of forfeiture, more weapons were found during a search of Coffman’s Falkville residence, including another 12 Molotov cocktails, two rifles and ammunition.

In a May 2021 order denying Coffman’s bid for pretrial release, the court said the defendant also had at his Falkville home a handwritten list of specific individuals, whose names were not included in the court’s opinion, with descriptions that included “ex Dem. Senator, traitor,” “Billionaire leftist, traitor,” “radical Dem. Senator,” “billionaire oilman & fund-raiser for Obama” and “G.E., Obama’s lap dog.”

A previous court filing said authorities Jan. 6 found paperwork in Coffman’s truck identifying a congressman as a Muslim and listing as a “bad guy” a U.S. circuit judge appointed by former President Barack Obama.

Court records also indicate Coffman tried to contact U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, FOX commentator Sean Hannity and conservative radio show talk hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh.

‘WASTED MY TIME’

In his memo filed this past week, Coffman references efforts to contact people about the election.

“When I realized just how unrealistic it was for me to think I could get close enough to anyone who would even listen to me, I walked around the outskirts of the event briefly, then left and started back to where my vehicle was parked. I am sorry I wasted my time, and I am sorry for breaking the law. I ask the court to be merciful when considering my sentence,” he wrote.

Prosecutors have presented no evidence that he entered the Capitol Building.

Coffman also wrote that he has numerous medical problems, and he wants to be released so he can receive treatment through the Veterans Administration.

In a simultaneously filed sentencing brief, Coffman’s lawyer noted he is a U.S. Army veteran who lied about his age to enlist in 1968 and served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam before an honorable discharge in 1976. He worked at Nicholson File in Cullman until 2012, according to the brief.

“Except for time spent serving his country in Vietnam, he has lived his whole life in Alabama,” wrote his lawyer, Manuel Retureta, of Washington.

The only explanation for Coffman’s possession of the Molotov cocktails and firearms included in the request for a reduced sentence is in the lawyer’s brief.

“He traveled (to Washington, D.C.) with his personal belongings and firearms for, as he stated to law enforcement, his protection,” Retureta wrote, a trip he made “to investigate the allegations of fraud he had heard from media outlets.”

Coffman’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 1 before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Coffman’s attorney noted he will have served almost 15 months in jail by then.

“Given Mr. Coffman’s extraordinary and compelling circumstances as they relate to his health, advanced age and acceptance of responsibility, we respectfully submit that no further time is warranted to achieve a fair and just sentence,” Retureta wrote. “His felony conviction will stay with him for the rest of his life, and he is painfully aware that the conviction will deprive him of his right to possess firearms.”

If Coffman is sentenced to prison, the lawyer requested it be to a federal prison in the Southeast with medical facilities.

In his handwritten note, Coffman said he wishes he had never headed to the Capitol.

“When I left my home in Alabama, sometime around January 3rd, I had no idea what trials, test of spirit and mental anguish that I would face over the coming months,” he wrote. “If I had any idea things would turn out like they did, I would have stayed home … I am pleading with you now your Honor, please be lenient as you determine what my future will be.”

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