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July 29, 2021

Federal judges expressing some concern about lenient plea deals for some Capitol riot defendants

This new BuzzFeed News article, headlined "A Judge Questioned If Capitol Rioters Are Getting Off Too Easy For 'Terrorizing Members Of Congress'," reports on some notable comments by some notable federal judges about the plea deals being given to some of the Capitol rioters.  Here are excerpts:

A federal judge on Thursday pushed back on the government’s decision to ink deals in the Capitol riot cases that involve low-level misdemeanors, questioning whether that was appropriate for people involved in “terrorizing members of Congress.”

The unusual exchange came during a plea hearing for Jack Jesse Griffith, who was charged solely with misdemeanor crimes for going into the Capitol on Jan. 6; he wasn’t accused of violence or property destruction.  As Griffith prepared to plead guilty to one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building — a class B misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail — US District Chief Judge Beryl Howell asked the prosecutor to explain why Griffith’s deal involved a class of crime typically reserved for people who did things like trespass in a national park at night.

“I'm just curious — does the government have any concern given the factual predicate at issue here, of the defendant joining a mob, breaking into the Capitol building through a broken door, wandering through the Capitol building and stopping a constitutionally mandated duty of the Congress and terrorizing members of Congress, the vice president, who had to be evacuated?” Howell asked.  “Does the government, in agreeing to the petty offense in this case, have any concern about deterrence?”

It was the second time this week that a judge questioned whether defendants charged in connection with Jan. 6 are getting off too lightly in plea deals, even if they’re not accused of more serious criminal activity, such as attacking police.  On Tuesday, US District Judge Reggie Walton, one of Howell’s colleagues on the federal bench in Washington, DC, briefly pondered whether he should jail two defendants who signed a deal similar to Griffith’s, given their involvement in the “atrocious act” of storming the Capitol; he ultimately allowed them to go home until they’re sentenced in October.

Griffith is the 27th defendant charged in the Jan. 6 riots to appear before a judge to plead guilty, and the 21st person to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor as part of an agreement with prosecutors — either the parading count that Griffith pleaded guilty to or disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, which also has a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Howell in the end accepted Griffith’s guilty plea, but, like Walton, put the government and defense through several paces before she did. She asked whether the government was concerned that an agreement involving a low-level misdemeanor was enough not only to deter Griffith from participating in a similar event in the future but also the broader universe of the hundreds of people who descended on the Capitol that day.  The circumstance that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection, a presidential election, happens every four years, the judge noted.

Assistant US Attorney Mitra Jafary-Hariri and Griffith’s lawyer H. Heather Shaner defended the deal, telling Howell that Griffith had expressed interest in pleading guilty early on — something defendants throughout the criminal justice system typically get credit for — and had cooperated with law enforcement officials by turning over his devices and giving them access to his social media. Jafary-Hariri said that under those circumstances, the government decided it was “willing to resolve it this way.”

Some prior related posts:

July 29, 2021 at 06:57 PM | Permalink


The judges are making excellent points here. Howell in particular summed it up nicely. I hope Garland/DOJ are getting the message and don't intend to pursue a "look forward not backward" strategy.

Posted by: kotodama | Jul 30, 2021 1:08:34 AM

I am concerned but the assistance, including access to devices helps in the one case.

I welcome a range of consequences, including civil liabilities in these situations. I continue to push for passage of enforcement of the 14A disqualification provision to help have that available to the group for which that is applicable. It also would show the serious nature of the situation.

Perhaps, it will come up during the 1/6 select committee hearings.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 30, 2021 7:33:20 AM

Federal judges expressing anything (including concern)about 1/6 should resign in shame and be disbarred.

The idea that some DC cops let a few people into the Capital where people wondered around aimlessly doing nothing, thus warranting punishment of any kind is an atrocity on the American people.

Have these judges watched antifa and BLM burn and murder? And yet a grandma who supports Trump should not receive lenient plea deals from the rapid dogs who call themselves federal prosecutors is subject to "concern?"

Concern over what? That a guy who murders people is released without bail while a guy wearing make up and horns is in solitary for 6 months? Nope These "concerned" judges are not concerned about that.

Concern that it is obvious that the FBI had more agents provacuer than there were actually real people there on 1/6? No concern over that.

How could these "concerned" judges be so stupid? What on Earth has happened to their brains? We see that UFOs are apparently real. Did the UFOs destroy the US Judiciary? That any judge any where would not see through this utter sham is impossible to believe.

Is this willful incredible ignorance of current events a result of the Judicial Culture? The DC Bubble Culture? I mean how could anyone possibly express "concern" about something so non-existent?

It just beggars belief.Hey "concerned" judges. Judge then convict those antifa/BLM who murder and burn. That is the true insurrection. Do it before that power is taken from you due to the clear fact that you are so out of touch with reality.

You repudiate the ideal of American Justice. You are "concerned"? You should be. Be "concerned" that you are too cowardly to speak up and repudiate rabid dogs calling themselves Federal prosecutors. They have gone off the hook. Only the juidiicay can rein these evil people in. Don't be "CONCERNED" like a coward, weeping in the corner!


Posted by: restless94110 | Jul 30, 2021 6:16:55 PM

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