Robert Morss, a former soldier from Shaler convicted of attacking police during 2021’s U.S. Capitol insurrection, is headed to federal prison for more than five years.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, presiding in the District of Columbia, on Wednesday imposed a 66-month term on the 29-year-old combat veteran.
Morss is a former Army Ranger originally from Nevada who served three tours in Afghanistan and then briefly became a substitute teacher in the Shaler district before the FBI arrested him.
He was convicted at trial last year in D.C. for assaulting police with a weapon, obstruction of an official proceeding and robbery.
He’d gone on trial with Geoffrey Sills of Virginia and David Judd of Texas, who also were convicted.
The three attended then-President Donald Trump’s lie-filled rally on Jan. 6, 2021, and then entered the Capitol and joined with other violent rioters in the tunnel area of the Lower West Terrace.
From 2:40 p.m. police held a line at the second set of glass doors inside the tunnel leading from the inaugural platform to the entrance to the Capitol.
Police battled the rioters, including Morss, Sills and Judd, inside the tunnel until 3:19, when officers cleared out the attackers. Skirmishes continued throughout the afternoon.
Morss had joined the Trump throng on the West Front of the grounds at 2 p.m. wearing a tactical vest with a knife sheath and scissors. He moved to the front of the line and squared off with police. He tried to steal a baton from a cop and wrenched a bike rack from a police sergeant, leaving no barrier between rioters and police.
“Take a look around,” Morss yelled to fellow insurrectionists. “We are going to take our Capitol back.”
He then joined rioters in pushing officers back and followed them up to the Lower West Terrace. A little after 3 p.m., he participated in a heave-ho action against the police line and wrested a riot shield from an officer. He passed it back to other rioters, and he and the rest then created a shield wall.
Morss later joined other rioters in climbing through a broken window, entered a Capitol office, stole a chair and passed it back out of the window to the others.
Sills and Judd engaged in similar violence.
The Pittsburgh FBI arrested Morss on June 11, 2021. He’s been in custody since.
He and his lawyer, Nicholas Smith, argued that he’s already served nearly two years of “hard time” in jail and shouldn’t get any more than two more years in prison.
The Justice Department was seeking 109 months, saying Morss, as an Army veteran, “turned his back” on the country for which he had fought in Afghanistan.
Morss grew up in Reno and joined the Army at 18 in 2011. He enrolled in the Army Rangers and served three combat tours with the 2nd Ranger Battalion.
After his honorable discharge in 2015, he went to Penn State to get his degree and was teaching history in the Shaler district from January 2021 until his arrest.
More than 1,000 people from across the U.S. have been arrested in the Capitol riot case, about two dozen from Western Pennsylvania.
The investigation is ongoing.
Torsten covers the courts for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.