North Fulton resident sentenced in Jan. 6 charge

Cua, among youngest Jan. 6 defendants, claimed his participation in the riot was driven by social media.

Milton resident Bruno Cua, one of the youngest people charged in the U.S. Capitol riot, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison by a federal judge Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Cua, who was 18 when he pushed his way past a Capitol police officer and into the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, was found guilty of assaulting a Capitol police officer and obstruction of an official proceeding, both felonies, in a stipulated bench trial in February.

The sentence of 366 days — first reported by Washington CBS affiliate WUSA9 — is significantly shorter than the nearly five years federal prosecutors recommended. According to WUSA9, U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss gave Cua credit for accepting responsibility for his actions, for which Cua apologized profusely while rejecting conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. Moss also took Cua’s youth into account when deciding his sentence, according to NBC justice reporter Ryan J. Reilly.

Cua was also sentenced to three years of supervised release after he leaves prison, according to a release by the United States Department of Justice.

Cua’s Washington-based attorney, William Zapf, had asked Moss to spare his now-21-year-old client any time in prison, citing his age, lack of criminal history, and community reputation as an upstanding, if naïve, young man obsessed with becoming an internet celebrity.

Prior to the riot, Cua, the oldest of three children, was living with his parents in their five-bedroom, eight-bath home on three acres in the North Fulton suburbs where he nurtured plans to develop his “Southern Adventures” YouTube channel into a career as a social media content creator.

“In the months and days leading up to January 6, former President Trump and his surrogates repeatedly sowed the seeds of distrust in the democratic institutions of this country, claiming that the presidential election had been stolen from him. He engaged in violent rhetoric and fomented a growing outrage among his supporters,” Zapf wrote in a pre-sentencing memo filed with the court.

Drawn in by this rhetoric, Cua saw an opportunity, Zapf claimed, to attract more attention to his social media accounts by traveling to Washington, D.C., for Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he could display a massive, 800-square-foot Trump flag from a specially designed flagpole mounted in the bed of his pickup truck.

11/05/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Bruno Cua unfurls a large Trump flag during a rally in the parking lot at the Georgia Republican Party headquarters in Buckhead on Thursday, November 5, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer

In a letter to the judge, quoted in Zapf’s memo, Cua attempted to explain himself.

“My social media was not an accurate representation of how I really was. It was like taking my thoughts and blowing them up to try to get views,” he wrote. “It was all about the views. I don’t really know what I was thinking or doing.”

Federal prosecutors pointed to weeks of social media posts leading up the riot where Cua threatened violence against the government and encouraged others to bring weapons to storm the Capitol as evidence of his intent on Jan. 6.

“Cua made clear that he did not believe that peaceful protesting would be effective and that violence was necessary,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kaitlin Klamann wrote in the government’s sentencing memo.

Prosecutors provided the court with dozens of social media posts to Parler and Instagram where Cua tried to whip up sentiment for armed rebellion.

“BRING YOUR GUNS. ALL OF THEM,” he wrote on Dec. 21, 2020. “PEACEFUL PROTESTS ARENT (sic) GONNA MAKE THE CORRUPT #DEEPSTATE GO AWAY! They didn’t hold signs in #1776, they shot and killed their oppressors!”

Zapf said Cua was influenced by his parents, “who espoused beliefs that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent and brought him to the Capitol on January 6.”

In a letter to the judge, Cua’s mother, Alise Cua, said her son was drawn in by her own “beliefs about the election” and her invitations to drive his truck with the oversized flag to Trump rallies in 2020. Bruno Cua saw the events as a chance for “major exposure and major channel subscriptions,” he wrote in his letter.

Now, Cua wrote that he views his actions on Jan. 6 with regret.

“Everything that happened that day was absolutely disgusting and an embarrassment to our entire country. I am ashamed that I participated in what happened that day,” he wrote.

Klamman argued that Cua’s conduct inside the Capitol during the riot, captured by surveillance footage and video from journalists and other rioters, justified significant prison time.

One of the police officers Cua encountered as he entered the Capitol remembered him as “the loudest, most aggressive, and most verbose of anyone in the crowd of rioters at that time and that he seemed to be the angriest of the group of rioters,” according to the prosecution memo. Evidence supplied by the prosecutors backed up the officer’s remembrance.

“This is what happens when you piss off patriots!” he was heard shouting in one recording submitted to the court. “Hey! Where are the swamp rats hiding?”

Cua’s most serious charge relates to an encounter that occurred outside a door to the Senate gallery where a Capitol police officer attempting to lock the door was confronted by a group of rioters. Video of the incident shows Cua moved to challenge the officer, shoving him while holding a metal baton he brought with him in one hand.

The FBI's criminal complaint against 18-year-old Bruno Cua includes this U.S. Capitol surveillance video, in which the FBI says Cua is shown in a physical altercation with U.S. Capitol Police outside the Senate chamber doors.

Credit: USAO/FBI

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Credit: USAO/FBI

When the officer retreated, Cua and other rioters stormed into the chamber. A few minutes after entering, Cua climbed down to the Senate floor, moved behind the dais at the head of the chamber and sat in the vice president’s seat, propping his feet upon the desk.

Cua left the Senate a few minutes later, but not before rifling through the desks of three senators while recording his actions on his own cell phone.

“Everyone who works in congress is a traitor to the people and deserves a public execution. Time for a new party, the patriot party,” he wrote on Parler in a Jan. 8, 2021, post.

Prosecutors pointed to Cua’s social media activity in the hours and days following the riot as evidence of his lack of regret for taking part in the episode.

Cua’s sentence is shorter than those given to many others who were among the mob who forced their way to the Senate floor. Ronald Sandlin of Tennessee, Nathaniel DeGrave of Las Vegas and Josiah Colt of Idaho were part of that group. The three men, all in their 30s, pleaded guilty to the same charges Moss found Cua guilty of committing, but they each received much longer sentences.

Sandlin was sentenced to more than five years, while DeGrave got three years. Colt got 15 months. While their conduct was roughly similar to Cua’s while in the Capitol, the three older men conspired online to come to the Capitol together and brought firearms and other weapons with them to Washington.

Nevertheless, Klamman said Cua’s actions before, during and after the riot “form one of the strongest and clearest examples of obstruction of Congress in the January 6 investigation to date.”

While Zapf argued that Cua’s life before and since the riot show he is not a threat to the community and should not have been given prison time, Klamman said Cua’s affluent background, relatively stable home life and supportive community made his behavior on Jan. 6 all the more aggravating.

“Cua appears to have had every advantage in life and many choices other than to attack the seat of our government. Cua’s crimes were not motivated by poverty or need and that sets him apart from many criminal defendants appearing in this courthouse,” she wrote. “Cua’s criminal conduct on January 6 was the epitome of disrespect for the law.”

Cua is one of 25 people with Georgia ties to be charged in the Capitol riot. Of those, 20 have pleaded or been found guilty. The remaining five defendants have yet to have their day in court.