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Justice Department dragged down by federal judge for weak prosecutions on January 6

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A federal judge slammed the Justice Department on Thursday for calling for low sentences for rioters involved in the Jan.6 attack on the United States Capitol.

U.S. District Chief Justice Beryl Howell of the District of Columbia tore up the DOJ for allowing rioter Jack Jesse Griffith to plead guilty to felony marching on Capitol Hill. Howell was beside herself, according to the Washington Post:

“No wonder some of the American public is wondering if what happened on January 6 on Capitol Hill was simply petty trespassing with some disorder, or shocking criminal conduct that posed a serious threat to our standards. democratic ”, judge Beryl. A. Howell said in court Thursday. “Let me clarify my point: the rioters were not just protesters. “

Looks like Howell read my group chat with friends.

Howell, appointed to the court by then-President Barack Obama in 2010, asked Thursday why the Justice Department would seek such minimal charges for participants in what prosecutors called an “attack on democracy.” . unprecedented in American history “.

What’s more, she said, prosecutors have not even called for those defendants who have not paid their court-ordered fines to be under judicial review. She suggested that prosecutors give preferential treatment to some of the rioters.

Members of a pro-Trump mob attempt to break through a police barrier on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.John Minchillo / AP file

Like other rioters on Capitol Hill who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, prosecutors agreed Griffith would only pay $ 500 in restitution.

“This is the first time the government has asked for restitution and not a period of probation,” Howell said Thursday, according to the Post. “Is it because the government thinks these defendants are more trustworthy?” “

Prosecutors have called for a three-month jail sentence for Griffith. Howell sentenced him to three years of probation. Probation shouldn’t be “the norm” for rioters on Capitol Hill, she explained, but Griffith shouldn’t be punished more than others who have engaged in similar behavior.

Those who attacked our democracy in January face weaker sanctions than those who tried to defend it.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has faced criticism – including from Howell – over the weak prosecution of the DOJ against the January 6 rioters. And he offered a weak excuse in response:

“I am fully aware that there are people who blame us for not suing enough and others who complain that we are suing too harshly,” he said this month. “It’s, you know, part of any prosecutor’s territory anyway. “

Garland’s defense boils down to “if I drive two opposing sides mad, I must do something right.” This is an appropriate strategy for dealing with children in conflict – it is not a good strategy for holding apparent insurgents responsible.

I know non-violent civil rights protesters who spent more time in jail than most of the rioters involved in the deadly attack on Capitol Hill. Those who attacked our democracy in January face weaker sanctions than those who tried to defend it. I was happy to see a federal judge share my concern this week.

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