Most of Mariotto’s half-hour plea hearing was routine in nature, as the judge led the defendant through a fairly standard series of questions about his competence to plead guilty and the consequences of doing so.
However, when the issue turned to whether Mariotto should be detained pending sentencing, Walton’s voice rose and unleashed a furious volley over the Capitol storming earlier this year as lawmakers prepared to certify victory. of Joe Biden in the presidential race.
“I have real concerns about what you and other people did,” said the judge, appointed by former President George W. Bush. “It was an attack on our government and I love my government. This government has been good to me. Seeing someone destroy, or try to destroy, the Capitol worries me a lot. “
Walton noted that he regularly travels abroad to advise other governments on judicial and legal matters. Now, that task will be more complicated and its credibility will be undermined, the judge declared.
“America wasn’t great that day and I’m sure when I go to other jurisdictions to say how they can be like America, they’ll say, ‘Why should I want to be like America when all of you are trying to bring down your own country. ‘ I find it very disturbing. “
Walton also expressed fear that the January 6 rioters have set a precedent that could lead to unrest and violence in future US elections.
“What if the next time, the Democrats lose the presidency and start a riot?” The judge asked. “I suppose you think it would be fine, in light of what he did, right?”
“No,” Mariotto said.
Walton is among a handful of federal judges in Washington, DC, appointed by the presidents of both parties, to express open disdain for those accused of riots and their cause.
Chief Judge Beryl Howell, appointed by former President Barack Obama, has also verbally criticized the defendants and suggested that even non-violent offenders are responsible for the most heinous acts committed that day, arguing that they helped overwhelm the community. police and weaken the building’s defenses. Howell has at times questioned prosecutors for failing to issue more serious charges against some defendants and has lobbied defendants directly during guilty plea hearings to acknowledge their conduct.
Other justices have held the view that the Capitol riot was a grave affront to democracy, emphasizing that any light sentences they might impose on low-level offenders will not become the norm, although many of those convicted of minor offenses so far have not been incarcerated. .
Judges routinely comment on the seriousness of crimes committed by convicted defendants, but the attack on Capitol Hill has placed them in a unique position to offer a daily commentary on an investigation that has consumed Washington for months.
The case against Mariotto is relatively routine among the more than 600 accused of riot on Capitol Hill. He is accused of illegally entering the building, but not of committing violence or material damage. He was struck with a charge that most of the January 6 defendants do not face: illegally staying in a gallery of Congress.
Mariotto entered the Senate chamber and took a smiling selfie while there that he posted on social media.
However, under the terms of Mariotto’s plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss that charge and three others in exchange for their guilty plea on the charge of parading or protesting on Capitol Hill. That carries a maximum prison sentence of six months.
Walton, who is known for his withering outbursts in court as a brutal verbal attack last year against Attorney General Bill Barr, initially misstated the charge that Mariotto sought to plead guilty as “pleasing” on Capitol Hill. The charge actually covers parades, rallies, or pickets at any Capitol building.
Mariotto quickly said that he thought he was “parading” what he was admitting. Prosecutor Kimberley Nielsen also intervened to say that the charge was parading, demonstrating or picketing. The judge, however, said he didn’t see much of a difference.
“I’m sure pleasing equals one of those,” Walton said.