First things first-- with so many of the insurrectionists claiming they were just following orders from their commander-in-chief when they pillaged the Capitol, right after being fingerprinted they should take an IQ test. Those with IQs of, say 70-80 or less, should just get a slap on the wrist. They're obviously too stupid to know any better. They don't really deserve prison sentences... maybe a little community service-- and after they pass a rigorous civics course, their voting rights should be fully restored. Fair enough? The rest... none of them should be eligible to vote for at least a decade or two after they get out of prison. And the organizers and leaders-- well it's up to judges and juries to decide between prison sentences and executions but, they better hope I'm not on any of the juries.
So it was with some interest that I read the report in the Washington Post this morning by Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu, FBI, Justice Dept. Debate Not Charging Some Of Capitol Rioters. Call me old fashioned but I'm a law and order kind of guy; always have been. But these Justice Department folks aren't talking about springing the whole lot of them; they're "privately debating whether they should decline to charge some of the individuals who stormed the U.S. Capitol this month," basically going easy on the suckers who just got swept up in the Trumpiness of the day.
Barrett and Hsu reported that "Federal officials estimate that roughly 800 people surged into the building, though they caution that such numbers are imprecise, and the real figure could be 100 people or more in either direction. Among those roughly 800 people, FBI agents and prosecutors have so far seen a broad mix of behavior-- from people dressed for military battle, moving in formation, to wanton vandalism, to simply going with the crowd into the building. Due to the wide variety of behavior, some federal officials have argued internally that those people who are known only to have committed unlawful entry-- and were not engaged in violent, threatening or destructive behavior-- should not be charged, according to people familiar with the discussions."
But not everyone even likes that degree of leniency. Some argue "that it is important to send a forceful message that the kind of political violence and mayhem on display Jan. 6 needs to be punished to the full extent of the law, so as to discourage similar conduct in the future... The Justice Department has already charged more than 135 individuals with committing crimes in or around the Capitol building, and many more are expected to be charged in the coming weeks and months. By mid-January, the FBI had already received more than 200,000 tips from the public about the riot, in addition to news footage and police officer testimony. The primary objective for authorities is to determine which individuals, if any, planned, orchestrated or directed the violence. To that end, the FBI has already found worrying linkages within such extremist groups as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters, and is looking to see if those groups coordinated with each other to storm the building, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Prosecutors have signaled they are looking to bring charges of seditious conspiracy against anyone who planned and carried out violence aimed at the government, a charge that carries a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years.
But even as Justice Department officials look to bring those types of cases, they privately acknowledge those more determined and dangerous individuals may have operated within a broader sea of people who rushed through the doors but didn’t do much else, and prosecutors will ultimately have to decide if all of those lesser offenders should be charged.
Officials insisted they are not under pressure in regards to timing of decisions about how to handle those type of cases. For one thing, investigators are still gathering evidence, and agents could easily turn up additional photos or online postings that show a person they initially believed was harmless had, in fact, encouraged or engaged in other crimes.
Investigators also expect that some of those charged in the riot will eventually cooperate and provide evidence against others, and that could change their understanding of what certain people said or did that day, these people said.
...[D]efense lawyers for some of those charged are contemplating something akin to a “Trump defense”-- that the president or other authority figures gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act.
“If you think of yourself as a soldier doing the bidding of the commander in chief, you don’t try to hide your actions. You assume you will be held up as a hero by the nation,” criminal defense lawyers Teri Kanefield and Mark Reichel wrote last week.
Such a defense might not forestall charges but could be effective at trial or sentencing. Trump’s looming impeachment trial in the Senate will also focus further attention on his actions and raise questions about the culpability of followers for the misinformation spread by leaders around bogus election-fraud claims rejected by courts and state voting officials.
“It’s not a like a bunch of people gathered on their own and decided to do this, it’s not like a mob. [NOTE FROM HOWIE: yes it is.] It’s people who were asked to come by the president, encouraged to come by the president, and encouraged to do what they did by the president and a number of others,” said one attorney representing defendants charged in the breach who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legal strategy.
Prosecutors have other options. For rioters with no previous criminal records or convictions and whose known behavior inside the Capitol was not violent or destructive, the government could enter into deferred plea agreements, a diversion program akin to pretrial probation in which prosecutors agree to drop charges if a defendant commits no offenses over a certain time period.
Such a resolution would not result in even a misdemeanor conviction, and has been used before in some cases involving individuals with a history of mental illness who were arrested for jumping the White House fence. Criminal defense attorneys note there may be further distinctions between individuals who may have witnessed illegal activity or otherwise had reason to know they were entering a restricted area, and those for whom prosecutors can’t show such awareness.
As for the death sentence, that should probably be reserved for the ones who murdered people, the organizers and leaders and any public officials-- like Lauren Boebert (Q-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Marjorie Taylor Green (Q-GA), Mad Cawthorn (Nazi-NC), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Gym Jordan (R-OH), Matt Gaetz (R-FL)... maybe senators Cruz (R-TX), Hawley (R-MO), Johnson (R-WI) and Tuberville (R-AL); we'll have to see what the investigations uncover. And Giuliani and Donald Trump Sr and Jr.