Judges, Prosecutors Diverge on Sentencing Jan. 6 Capitol Rioters

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Setting penalties for nonviolent participants in pro-Trump riots reflects array of mitigating and aggravating factors

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The discrepancies point to the challenges the justice system faces in deciding how to punish those who did not engage in violence at the US Capitol, but whose collective actions made possible a violent riot, in which more than 100 More police officers were injured. The Trump crowd tried to block the certification of President Biden’s election.

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U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump, sentenced Eliel Rosa on Tuesday, saying, “You participated in a shameful incident, a national embarrassment.” The Texas man turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation three days after the riots and later told prosecutors that he had “learned a lesson in reaping the fruits of my stupidity.”

Beyond the probation period, prosecutors had sought one month of home confinement and 60 hours of community service. “Probation should not be a default,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Fratto, adding that the seriousness of what happened and the deterrent effect of the sentence could be downplayed.

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The judge imposed one year of probation and 100 hours of community service, as well as the $500 payment that Capital Architect imposed on most defendants. Judge McFadden said, “I don’t see what purpose house arrest would serve.” “Most of us have been under house arrest in some form or the other for the past year and a half.”

Later that day, in a phone hearing, another prosecutor said that Indiana barber Donna Sue Bisse should only receive probation because she accepted a preliminary plea offer and had been inside the Capitol for about 10 minutes. Instead, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced her to two weeks in prison.

“Even though she did not commit violence or destroy property, Ms. Bisse walked into the Capitol that day, knowing full well that she should not have done so. She was completely taken aback by the chaos and destruction going on around her. She was aware, and she had to be aware that her presence lent support to the crowd,” said Judge Chutkan, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, Judge Chutkan sentenced two other rioters, cousins ​​Robert Bauer and Edward Hemenway, who spent less than half an hour at the Capitol and did not involve themselves in the destruction, to 45 days in prison, each to 30 days. More prosecutors put him in jail. demanded. Judge Chutkan said, “There will be consequences for participating, even in a small way.”

On the same day, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols, a Trump appointee, sentenced Thomas Gallagher, a former Defense Department employee from New Hampshire, to two years’ probation, three years’ probation and a month’s home, overcoming prosecutors’ requests. The prison judge said Mr Gallagher, who was arrested along with five others, appeared in a video to discourage other rioters from throwing a chair at an officer, made himself available for an FBI interview and others. Apologies in court with mitigating factors.

Billy Williams, the former US attorney in Portland, Ore., whose office brought charges against nearly 100 people in connection with the violence at the 2020 protests over racial injustice, said he told his team of prosecutors without considering the volume of cases Reminded to weigh each case individually. .

“No matter how many cases are brought, they all have to be resolved individually and consistently for equal conduct,” he said. “If you wonder how a judge sentences someone, you have to realize that the judge has discretion.”

Prior to this week’s hearing on January 6, 12 of the defendants were sentenced, according to a Justice Department list released last week. Most received either probation or a few months in prison, generally did not engage in violence and pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. Several others who have filed guilty pleas are to be sentenced in the coming months; Hundreds more have pleaded not guilty and continue to fight the charges.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has told other Justice Department officials that he is concerned that prison rioters who were not radical extremists for a wider period of time could make them more radicalized, according to people familiar with the matter. Which he expressed more broadly about defendants’ entry into the criminal justice system. But he has skipped recommending the sentencing directly to the prosecutors involved, who are making decisions based on nine factors, court documents indicate.

Speaking at the New Yorker Festival last week, Mr. Garland said, “Prosecutors are determining in every case which charge fits the crime, which charge fits the law.” “I am well aware that there are people who are criticizing us for not prosecuting enough and others are complaining that we are prosecuting too harshly. This, you know, is part of the territory for any prosecutor in any case.”

Many cases have been delayed as prosecutors struggle with defense lawyers to share thousands of hours of footage from security and officers’ body cameras, as well as hundreds of thousands of documents related to the wider investigation. Prosecutors have asked the defense team to delay the first trial, which begins next month, to hand over the footage and documents.

Some Republicans have downplayed the events of January 6, saying the details of the day’s violence were exaggerated. In multiple filings, prosecutors have included the same sentence: “Make no mistake: There were no rioters that day, only tourists.”

In some cases, judges enforced the punishment sought by the government but still questioned its choice. Earlier this month, for example, U.S. District Judge James Bosberg sentenced another rioter, Andrew Bennett of Maryland, to a prosecutor-recommended three-month home sentence. “I seldom exceed what the government asks for,” the judge said: “If the government asked for prison in this case, I cannot say that I would not have imposed it.”

write to Aruna Vishwanath at [email protected] and Sadie Gurman at [email protected]

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