It’s a common refrain from some of those indicted in the January 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol and their Republican allies: The Justice Department treats them harshly for their political views while those arrested during last year’s protests against racial injustice received leniency.
The court records tell a different story.
An Associated Press review of documents in more than 300 federal cases arising from protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last year shows that dozens of indicted people have been convicted of serious crimes and sent to jail.
The AP found that more than 120 defendants across the United States have pleaded guilty or have been convicted on trial for federal crimes, including riots, arson and conspiracies. More than 70 defendants convicted to date have spent an average of 27 months behind bars. At least 10 were sentenced to prison terms of five years or more.
The dissonance between the rhetoric of the rioters and their supporters and the court record highlights both the racial tension inherent in their arguments – the pro-Donald Trump rioters were largely white and the summer protesters the latter were more diverse – and the flawed assessment at the heart of their claims.
“The property damage or charges of arson and looting over the past year were serious and were treated seriously, but they were not an attack on the fundamental constitutional processes on which we rely in a democracy, nor an attack. on the United States Congress, ”said Kent Greenfield, professor at Boston College Law School.
Certainly, some have received lenient offers.
At least 19 defendants who have been convicted across the country have not been sentenced to prison or serve a sentence, according to the AP review. Many pleaded guilty to minor offenses, such as assault, but some were convicted of more serious charges, including civil unrest.
In Portland, Oregon – where protests, many of which have turned violent, have taken place every night for months after a white Minneapolis cop killed Floyd – more than 60 of the roughly 100 cases that have been brought have been cleared, according to court records.
Most of these defendants have received deferred resolution agreements, under which prosecutors agree to drop the charges after a certain period of time if the defendant gets out of trouble and completes things such as community service. Some defendants of the Capitol riots complained that it was unfair that they did not get the same deals.
Tories have sought to equate the attack on Capitol Hill with the Black Lives Matter protests, accusing Democrats of being hypocrites for failing to speak out against the violence after Floyd’s death as loud as the Capitol uprising. Some Republicans have taken to the handling of protest cases in Portland to suggest that the Jan.6 defendants are being politically persecuted.
Only a handful of the nearly 600 people indicted in the insurgency have so far received their sentences, and only three have been sentenced to prison terms. The vast majority of the most serious cases – involving people accused of assaulting police officers or plotting to block certification of Biden’s victory – remain unresolved.
The catalysts for the riot and the racial justice protests were also fundamentally different.
Crowds of Trump supporters fueled by the former president’s lies about the election descended on Capitol Hill and breached police barriers, assaulted officers, smashed windows and sent lawmakers running in a stunning attempt to overthrow the government. ‘presidential election.
Protests across the country after Floyd’s death were largely peaceful calls to tackle racial inequalities and police brutality that at times turned violent. In some cities, protests escalated into chaos after dark, with people smashing windows, looting shops, torching and assaulting officers.
Then-attorney general William Barr urged federal prosecutors to aggressively attack protesters who caused violence. Defense lawyers complained that many of the cases were in state courts – sentences are usually lighter there – and accused Justice Department officials of leading a politically motivated effort to thwart protests .
This month, a man who was 19 at the time was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay what his lawyer said was likely to exceed $ 1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to incitement to a riot last spring in Champaign, Illinois.
In the Capitol Riot, dozens of defendants were charged with only misdemeanors, and a standard plea deal allowed many to plead guilty to a single count of protesting on Capitol Hill.
An Indiana woman who admitted to entering the Capitol illegally but did not participate in any violence or destruction avoided jail, and two other misdemeanors were sentenced to one and two months of house arrest. Two other people detained before trial were released after pleading guilty to minor offenses and serving six months in prison.
So far, only one accused convicted of a crime has received his sentence. Paul Hodgkins, who breached the US Senate chamber wearing a Trump campaign flag, was sentenced to serve eight months behind bars.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland in June, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and four other Republican senators expressed concern about “the potential inequality in the administration of justice” in the way prosecutors reacted to the January 6 riot and the Black Lives. Matter protests.
A Jan. 6 defendant also accused the Justice Department of selective prosecutions based on different political views, comparing his case to how the department handled charges arising from the Portland protests.
Garrett Miller of Texas was wearing a t-shirt that read, “I was there, Washington DC, January 6, 2021” when he was arrested. Prosecutors said Miller posted threatening messages on Twitter against Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York City, after the riot. His attorney said Miller was not trying to apologize for his actions.
Federal prosecutors say Miller has presented no evidence that his case was politically motivated.
They also rejected comparisons between Miller’s actions and those of the Portland defendants, “who, despite serious offenses, never entered the structure of the Federal Courthouse, hindered congressional proceedings or targeted an official or a specific federal officer for assassination “.
Meanwhile, in Utah this month, a federal judge sentenced 25-year-old Lateesha Richards to almost two years in prison for throwing a pair of basketball shorts at an overturned patrol car and in fire and for throwing a baseball bat at police officers during a 2020 Protest in Salt Lake City. There is no evidence that the bat hit anyone.
Defense attorney Alexander Ramos, who pushed the judge to sentence Richards to a year in prison she has already served, said George Floyd’s protesters appeared to be under even greater scrutiny than comparable “ordinary” cases.
“If he hadn’t had this political context, I think more people would have been released,” Ramos told the PA.
Richer reported from Boston, Kunzelman from College Park, Maryland, and Billeaud from Phoenix.
The Independent Gt