A federal judge said Friday that he believes the Justice Department hasn’t been “even-handed” with President Donald Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, suggesting that they’ve been treated more harshly than the rioters in last year’s racial unrest.
“The US Attorney’s Office would have more credibility if it was even-handed in its concern about riots and mobs in the city,” District Judge Trevor McFadden said at a sentencing hearing for one of the Capitol rioters, citing year-old complaints from DC Mayor Muriel Bowser that the Justice Department was reluctant to charge rioters in the city after George Floyd’s murder.
McFadden, who was appointed by Trump, invoked last year’s civil unrest while sentencing Danielle Doyle, a former employee of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for unlawfully protesting at the Capitol.
“You were acting like those looters and rioters who attacked our city last year,” McFadden said, noting that some buildings were boarded up for months in Washington. “… You participated in a shameful event, a national embarrassment that, like last year’s riots, made us feel less safe and less confident that our country could be governed by democratic values and not mob rule.”
The judge’s rebuke of the Justice Department may be welcomed by Republicans who have argued that the January 6 rioters are being treated unfairly. Prosecutors have pushed back on those claims, and McFadden himself has already rejected one attempt by a January 6 defendant to argue that the charges should be dropped because they were politically motivated.
Prosecutors have previously argued that the comparison is unfair and that the insurrection was worse than riots in Portland, Oregon, and other cities last year. They said the January 6 attack was much larger and put hundreds of lawmakers in imminent danger. They also have noted it was easier to prosecute the Capitol rioters because many of them livestreamed their crimes.
Prosecutors had recommended two months of house arrest for Doyle, but McFadden instead gave her a $3,000 fine and ordered her to pay $500 for damages to the Capitol complex. The fine was the heftiest financial penalty that a judge has levied so far against an insurrection defendant.
Doyle is one of several rioters who were sentenced this week, as the pace of guilty pleas and sentencings ramps up. It comes amid a public debate over what the punishments should be: A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that about half of Americans believe the punishments haven’t been severe enough. Only 20% said the punishments are too severe.
Doyle was turned in by a former co-worker form the basketball team, where she was a senior account manager for season ticket holders. She left the organization in December, before the Capitol riot, and is now a recruiter at the Addison Group staffing company, according to her LinkedIn.
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