By Marshall Cohen and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN
Of the more than 50 defendants who were convicted for their roles on January 6 attack on the US Capitol, less than half were sent to prison for their crimes. According to CNN’s analysis, most received a range of milder punishments, including brief terms of house arrest, a few years’ probation, a four-figure fine or community service at the behest of the judge. court.
The 50-person milestone was reached on Friday, a busy day in court, with six hearings scheduled. Four defendants were placed on probation Friday, including a pair of veterans from Wisconsin, while a man who stole beer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office received 20 days in prison.
As federal prosecutors bring cases against nearly 700 rioters, a heated debate has arisen about what justice should be in such an unprecedented case. attack democracy. This debate has raged on social media and in the halls of the National Assembly. It also took place among two dozen judges handling cases in federal court in Washington, DC.
After 50 trials, a split was on the bench: A team of referees introduced harsher punishments for rioters, including time behind bars. While a more skeptical group of judges dismissed the Justice Department and instead imposed fines and probation, it meant the rioters would avoid jail but still face trial. government surveillance for many years to come.
The move won’t last forever – this initial wave of guilty pleas and service will eventually be followed by dozens of more serious felonies with longer prison terms. But for now, the dizzying array of results has given some people headaches. Judges are questioning the department’s approach to January 6 and politicians of both sides ignited the fire.
“It’s not great when we take a group of people who stormed the US Capitol and let them go home. Not many people spend a lot of time in jail,” a Justice Department prosecutor with knowledge of the Jan. 6 investigation told CNN on condition of anonymity. “But prison is not always the best outcome. A lot of them are getting important terms of release and supervised probation, so they have to keep their noses clean. “
The wings of this court do not fall in line with politics. There are GOP-appointed skeptics and some Democratic appointees who put out tough penalties. But movement is nuance.
This has also forced the partisan players of both sides to change their ideological views to match the times. Lawmakers and pro-democracy activists are calling for more detention and want to judge throw the book at the riots, while many Republican officials and right-wing influencers became newly found supporters improve prison conditions for what they call “political prisoner.”
“You have this wild schism going on in the public eye, with half of the country saying these people are all violent and deserve to die in prison, the other half saying they are simply exercise the right to protest and free speech,” said Al Watkins, a defense attorney representing the so-called “QAnon shaman” and several other defendants charged in the riot.
Creating a ‘fair and just’ punishment
Nearly 700 cases are divided into two basic groups. Nonviolent rioters who have only been lightly charged. And then there are the felony cases, involving rioters assaulting police, breaking into the Senate floor, destroying property or conspiring with far-right groups.
To help the judges, prosecutors created an assessment of what should be considered in sentencing.
This includes common elements, like criminal records or cooperation with investigators, as well as elements specific to June 6: Did the defendant enter the Capitol? How did they get in? How long were they inside? Do they incite or glorify violence? Are they still justifying the attack?
Federal prosecutors allowed dozens of nonviolent rioters to plead guilty to misdemeanors limit their potential jail time at six months. According to CNN’s latest statistics, only 19 out of 50 misdemeanor cases end up in prison. Four more defendants were found guilty of felony charges, and they received sentences ranging from eight months to three-and-a-half years in prison.
The judges collectively ordered the rioters to pay at least $70,000 in fines and restitution to the US government. It’s part of $1.4 million in estimated damage to the Capitol, but for many old-fashioned defendants, a fine of several thousand dollars is a major financial blow.
Ken White, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney who closely followed the January 6 cases, said: “The results so far are not surprising to me. “A lot of these are very minor offenses, so you would expect the sentences to be very light. It’s somewhat unusual for someone to actually go to prison for a misdemeanor in the federal system. It is usually probation. “
‘There must be consequences’
District Judge Tanya Chutkan became the epitome of the more muscular wing of the imperial court. To date, four of her misdemeanor cases have been sentenced, and in all four, she has gone further than the Department of Justice and send rioters to jail, from 14 to 45 days.
Chutkan, an Obama appointee, said at a sentencing that “the country is watching” to see what happens to the Capitol rioters. Prosecutors requested three months of house arrest for Matthew Mazzocco, but Chutkan give him 45 days in jail, said, “there must be consequences if you participate in a riot aimed at overthrowing the government, in addition to sitting at home.”
“It’s unusual to have federal judges on the file calling for the DOJ to be so soft,” said CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. “I have been part of the opposite scenario, where the judges said the DOJ was being too aggressive, overcounting a case, or asking for an unreasonably high sentence. But to see the judges saying the DOJ is underperforming, that’s unusual and remarkable. ”
The longest prison sentences to date are reserved for those who commit felonies. The judges in these cases generally agreed to the lengthy prison sentences demanded by prosecutors.
“The offense you committed is so central to our democracy that I cannot justify a single sentence under principle,” District Judge Royce Lamberth told Scott Fairlamb, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstruct the Electoral College proceedings.
Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, sentenced Fairlamb to 41 months in prison, or about 3.5 years. It’s the same punishment he gave Jacob Chansley, “QAnon shaman” who went viral for wearing a bear skin outfit with horns while rummaging through the Senate floor. (Judges are randomly assigned to cases, and Lamberth stumbles upon these two famous defendants.)
In a light case, Lambeth gave Frank Scavo two months in prison and a $5,000 fine, the legal maximum. Prosecutors only managed to find a way behind bars for two weeks against Scavo, who be held bus to bring 200 Trump supporters from eastern Pennsylvania to DC for the January 6 rally.
“What we are seeing at the felony level is worrying and the trend is just beginning,” said Watkins, who has represented Chansley for most of this year. “And I think misdemeanor cases are being scrutinized a little bit more than you usually see. This event did not occur in a vacuum.”
Skeptics choose probation and fines
Other DC District Court judges took a softer approach. According to CNN’s statistics, about 60% of misdemeanor cases have reached their conclusion without a prison sentence for the rioters.
Many of these no-jail sentences came from two Trump-appointed judges, Trevor McFadden and Carl Nichols, though they were mostly in cases where prosecutors only requested house arrest.
Because nonviolent rioter Danielle Doyle, prosecutors requested two months of house arrest and three years of probation. McFadden settled for a $3,000 fine and just two months of probation.
“I don’t think the government’s recommendation is appropriate,” he said, before telling Doyle that January 6 was a “strange aberration” for her and that he hoped she would. use your passion for politics and love for our country to protect and promote our country,” and without breaking the law.
McFadden also slam the justice department for not going “right” with the defendants January 6, compared with rioters linked to last year’s racial unrest. He fined three Capitol rioters, ignoring requests from prosecutors for short jail time or house arrest.
His first prison sentence comes on Friday, but with some caveats. Prosecutors have a 60-day wanted manhunt for Andrew Ericson, who stole beer from the refrigerator in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. McFadden gave him 16 days and said he could serve over the weekend, so he wouldn’t lose his job.
The most influential skeptic on the court is Chief Justice Beryl Howell, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and has strongly condemn the rioters in the Capitol and what they stood for – but repeatedly refused prosecutors when they asked for incarceration.
At a sentencing hearing, Howell said the Justice Department had “Almost schizophrenic” for highlighting the dire consequences of the uprising while letting the rioters justify a petty offence. She also balked when prosecutors tried to use military service of the rioters to seek tougher punishments.
Most of these non-custodial sentences include substantial terms of probation, usually three years or longer. This means members of the January 6 mob will be subject to government scrutiny through the 2024 election and will face harsher penalties if they break the law again. .
A Justice Department official who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said probation would be an important tool to prevent political violence. Prosecutors can seek court-ordered restrictions on defendants who associate with dangerous groups or access extremist content online.
“People are reacting to common sense like it’s horrible, and as if the judge has to be crooked,” said White, a legal analyst, of the probation-only sentences for the defendants May 6. January. “Ordinary things in the courtroom have been rotated to create outrage and agitation.”
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CNN’s Holmes Lybrand contributed to this story
https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/11/after-50-rioters-sentenced-for-january-6-insurrection-a-debate-rages-over-what-justice-looks-like/ After 50 rioters were convicted for the January 6 uprising, a debate rages on what justice should look like.