9 Jan 2022

The treatment of the Capitol insurrectionists

From The Weekend , 8:12 am on 9 January 2022

A senior editor at Slate in the US has found a pattern among those arrested for storming the White House on 6 January.

Jeremy Stahl has reviewed all 733 criminal cases of those charged with actions relating to the events in January last year.

When he looked at the number of defendants still pleading not guilty, more than 500, he found a large number were allowed to await trial at home.

“It was very, very clear that these defendants were being let out of jail to await trial at home at a far greater rate than the rest of the population,” he told Emile Donovan.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Photo: AFP

Defendants in January 6 cases were four times less likely to have to await trial in jail than the average criminal defendant in the United States, he says.

Research also shows that 95 percent of the January 6 defendants are white, Stahl says.

The disparity cold be down to simple institutionalised racism he says or a matter of money.

“It could be something simple as the fact that many, many, many more of these defendants are able to afford and retain private counsel.

“And when you have private counsel, you're more likely to win pre-trial release, you're more likely to actually avoid a conviction in your case.

“And that is a fact in this group of defendants.”

He has been dispirited, he says, to see the leniency shown towards some of the more violent offenders.

“There was one defendant who allegedly attacked an officer with a flagpole seven times.

“There was another one who was an avowed white supremacist who declared he wanted to be a lone wolf killer, who was already on a GPS ankle monitor when he was arrested who received pretrial release.

“There was a retired firefighter who allegedly threw a fire extinguisher at police during the assault who was released.

“There was a man who allegedly attacked police with a hockey stick wrapped in a Trump 2020 flag and complained that his jail conditions presented a grave human rights abuse, because there was no time in front of the television. And he was eventually granted pre-trial release.”

Stahl nevertheless is optimistic the slow turning wheels of justice will deliver the right punishments.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland in a speech said it was a slow, laborious process, Stahl says.

“The way that these kinds of criminal investigations work typically is that they charge lower level offenders first, and then they roll up the higher offenders, they deal with the low hanging fruit first, and then move up the ladder.

“I think in the next year, what we're going to start to see is more and more of these people who are accused of very, very violent crimes, and even potentially the people who are accused of conspiring to organise the assault and the riot, start to face trial and face consequences for their actions.”