A couple in Ohio climbed through a broken window in the US Capitol and livestreamed their video. A Texas mortgage broker took a selfie in front of a riot that broke through a building. The owner of a hair salon in Indiana celebrated on Facebook the day after joining the Donald Trump mob.
Federal prosecutors did not seek imprisonment for any of them after pleading guilty to their actions on January 6, 2021 for misdemeanor crimes.
The judge had other ideas.
Judge Tanya Chutkan of the United States has stopped proving President Joe Biden’s victory, running lawmakers for their lives, beating dozens of police officers, and being appropriate for participating in bloody riots. As a punishment, they all were detained.
As the number of people convicted of crimes in riots approaches 200, some judges punish rioters, especially for low-level misdemeanors resulting from attacks, according to analysis of judgment data by AP news agency. Opinions are divided on how to do it.
“We are asking judges to do what they think is right, and they disagree about what is right,” said Greg Hunter, a lawyer defending several January 6 defendants. Told.
The House Committee, which held its first hearing on Thursday, cast a wide range of nets into the riot investigation, investigating how President Trump and his allies tried to undermine election results. So far, the Justice Department’s criminal investigations have focused primarily on hundreds of Trump supporters who broke through police barricades, shattered windows, attacked police officers, and rushed to the Capitol.
Former public defendant Chutkan, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, is a January 6 defendant in a federal court in Washington, which handles more than 800 cases filed so far. With the largest prosecution in the history of the Justice Ministry, which has consistently drawn the toughest line against.
Chutkan ruled more severely than the department had requested in seven cases, met the other four requests, and sent all 11 riot defendants who came in front of her to the back of the prison. .. In four cases where the prosecutor did not seek prison time, Chutkan gave him a term ranging from 14 to 45 days.
Overall, the 20 judges who ruled the riot defendants ruled in nearly three-quarters of the cases lighter than the prosecutors had requested. According to AP’s analysis, judges exceed the prosecutor’s recommendations for about 10% of defendants.
Most judges appointed by the presidents of both parties have made it easier for defendants than the prosecutor had hoped in in most or all of the cases so far. Some judges ruled several on the defendant on January 6, but judges other than Chutkan did not exceed the prosecutor’s recommended punishment in most of the cases assigned to them. ..
“Depending on the judge you get, the same facts could put you in jail for months from probation,” said lawyer Hunter. “Knowing that you can literally see who the judges are and who are assigned to the case, and that all defendants will get more or less time thanks to the judges they drew. When … it doesn’t promote respect for the law, “he added.
In one case, two Indiana friends, Dona Sue Bissey and Anna Morgan-Lloyd, both pleaded guilty to the same misdemeanor for doing essentially the same thing in the Capitol. Prosecutors pointed out that there was no criminal record and neither tried to put him in jail.
Chutkan sentenced Bissey to 14 days in prison. Another judge handed probation to Bissy’s friend.
Judge Royce Lamberth did not send Morgan-Lloyd to jail, but he was also one of the toughest judges against the accused. In one case, Lambert, nominated by President Ronald Reagan, gave a man in Pennsylvania two months late for misdemeanor when the prosecutor asked for only two weeks.
More than 300 people have pleaded guilty to criminal riots ranging from misdemeanors to felony instigating plots. The other five were convicted in court. The judge decided the other two cases without a jury, acquitting one defendant and partially acquitting the other.
The January 6 incident included illegal entry where hundreds of people would normally not land their first offender behind the bar, even though the riots were different from what has been seen so far. It poses a unique challenge to judges in that they are only charged with misdemeanors.
Some judges criticized the prosecutor for the disparity in prosecution decisions throughout the case, what they saw, and their punishment recommendations. Obama’s Judge Beryl Howell sharply wonders if prosecutors can easily stop the riots in a misdemeanor judicial deal, even though they describe the riots as an attack on democracy. is doing.
Indeed, all cases and defendants are different. In addition, the judge, in order to avoid unreasonable disparities, the seriousness of the crime, the criminal record of the person, whether the defendant felt guilty and regretted, the judgment received by the defendant in the same position, etc. Many factors need to be weighed.
In the case of a Maryland man who sprayed a fire extinguisher on a police officer defending the Capitol, the prosecutor demanded imprisonment for at least four years.
However, Judge Randolph Moss sentenced Mathew Ryan Miller to less than three years. He said he was 22 years old on January 6, 2021 and was drunk when he raided the Capitol and showed regrets.
Before punishing him, Moss said he believed that the judge did a good job of reviewing the individual factors in each case and ensuring that the punishment was consistent.
“Looking at the decisions made by this court among many judges, it’s worth noting how consistent the decisions were,” said Obama candidate Moss. “Once you find a difference, you can go back in the record and look at it to understand the rationale for those differences.”
In some cases, Chutkan expressed her belief that prisons could be a powerful deterrent to another threat of riots.
“I hear every day about reports of anti-democratic factions of violent plotters in 2024,” she sentenced a Florida man who attacked police officers behind prisons for more than five years. I said before. The previous sentence of the attack.
“We must make it clear that any attempt to violently overthrow the government, prevent a change of power, and assault law enforcement officers with that effort will result in absolute punishment,” she said. Said.
Of the more than 190 defendants sentenced to date, about 20 have been found accused of felony, including nine who have assaulted police officers. The rest pleaded guilty to misdemeanors punished with imprisonment of up to one year. Prosecutors recommended a sentence in more than 70% of cases. The judge agreed to put about 45% of them in jail for a period of 9 days to 5 years or more.
In one case, the prosecutor asked for a month in the prison of California bartender Kevin Cordón, who was found guilty of misdemeanor. Judge Trevor McFadden, appointed by Mr. Trump, said prison time was not appropriate given the lack of criminal records.
“In my experience as a judge and former prosecutor, it’s almost unheard of for someone who is essentially the first offender to go to jail for a nonviolent misdemeanor,” McFadden said. “Consistency in sentencing not only compared to other judges in the January 6 case, but also in view of how misdemeanors are treated more generally outside this politically noisy case. I think it’s important to have it. “
McFadden accuses the January 6 riots of “national embarrassment” and breaks into the Capitol compared to those arrested for racially unfair protests after George Floyd’s 2020 murder. He suggested that the Justice Department was too strict for those who did.
Without naming his colleague, Chutkan blamed McFadden’s proposal a few days later.
“Last year, people gathered all over the country to protest the violent murder of unarmed male police. Some of those protesters became violent,” Chutkan said in an October hearing. Said in.
“But comparing the actions of those who protest almost peacefully because of civil rights with the actions of violent mobs trying to overthrow a legally elected government is a false equivalent. Ignore the very real danger that the January 6 riots posed to the Foundation. Of our democracy. “
File-On January 6, 2021, a photograph rebel loyal to President Donald Trump broke the Capitol in Washington. As the number of people convicted of crimes in the Capitol riots approaches 200, some judges have rioted, especially for low-level misdemeanors resulting from attacks, according to analysis of judgment data by AP news agency. Opinions are divided on how to punish.
Kunzelman reported from College Park, Maryland, and Richer reported from Boston.
In the January 6 case, one judge stands out as the toughest punisher.
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