Well this sucks. For several reasons going all the way back to the Trump WH engineered failure of an adequate LE/National Guard response to the Jan. 6 insurrection riot. Not only was there a failure to have enough forces present to prevent the breach, but response was delayed allowing everyone who crossed the barriers and trespassed & worse to just walk away. Adequate DC, VA & MD National Guard troops should have been standing by ready to go to a) move in and re-establish a security perimeter and b) detain every single person inside the original barricades that didn’t manage to slip away as their transport showed up. At the very least many inside it could have been detained pending formal arrest and for damned sure the Capitol itself could have been sealed off and every person inside arrested before being handed over to Guard forces for transport to jail/a holding area.
Earlier this afternoon I read this Associated Press article on my news feed that reported the DC appellate court issued a 201 ruling invalidating the sentence of a seditionist by the name of James Little from NC who got 60 days in jail and three years probation. The “poor ole, persecuted” prick has gotten his probation cut short. Little seems to be one of those who apparently didn’t attack any LE, or cause any damage/commit vandalism but he WAS there and instead of reacting in horror like decent Americans did that awful day . Once others had beaten and bloodied up enough LE to breach the entrances.
Now, I get that some people were “only” a$$hatted (literally in many cases) a$$holes who didn’t assault anyone or cause any actual physical damage. Then again, they didn’t do anything to stop what others were doing and/or either heartily agreed with the violence they were witnessing or cheered those doing the assaulting. So yes, they didn’t merely trespass on federal property, they at the very least cheerleaded those committing serious felonies. AND, since others had done the dirty work decided by god they were entitled go go inside the Capitol and have their own gander at the place.
So hell yes, I’ve wanted to see every last one identified, hunted down, charged and convicted or plead to a federal crime and get punished for it. Still, different levels of offenses require different severity of charges and punishments. And yes, true contrition (for those who’d never been in trouble with the law before) and/or willingness to provide evidence against those they saw commit more serious offenses would merit a lighter charge & punishment. It’s always been that way in the criminal justice system.
As a result, in many cases “tourist trespassers” got misdemeanor level charges filed against them. And got light sentences. Personally I think every single one of them, the “didn’t really do all that much but take part, cheer others on and help themselves to a visit into an area they KNEW they weren’t supposed to be in” (it did after all take a helluva riot to breach the Capitol so they could go in and “just walk around and take video/pictures” to share on FB or with folks back home) rated being charged at a Class E Felony level – which carries a sentence of at least 1 year in prison (but less than five) and other punishments like a fine, probation or supervised release. For information on sentencing check out this Wikipedia link on the subject.
DOJ had an awful lot of people to track down. Hell, it’s wound up becoming the biggest, most sprawling case they’ve ever handled. So for “low level” offenders they chose to get quick guilty pleas with misdemeanor charges and offering light (if any) time in prison. Still, from where I sit at the very least everyone there inside the security barrier, and for damned sure that entered the Capitol itself rated if not a felony charge and conviction then at least a Class A Misdemeanor – 6 months to a year in prison and/or fines, probation etc.
Instead, Little seems to have been charged with a Class B Misdemeanor – 30 days to 6 months, probation (up to five years for any class of misdemeanor) and so on.
And that’s where a couple of appellate judges had a problem. Little served sixty days and got three years probation. From the linked AP article:
But the 2-1 opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that probation and imprisonment “may not be imposed as a single sentence” for a petty offense, adding “there are separate options on the menu.” Judge Robert Wilkins, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, dissented.
Now, we all know it’s common as mud for people to get sentenced to prison with probation tacked on. How much of each depends and is more complicated than I’ll get into here. The point is that the two judges in the majority said for this defendant and the type of crime he committed “you can’t do that – impose both a jail sentence AND probation.” To which I say “Huh?”
For anyone who hasn’t read my stuff before I’m not a lawyer. In the years before (at age 26) I went into the Corps my best friend back home was however and I developed some ability to decipher legal statutes and court (even SCOTUS) opinions. That’s why I don’t get this, because (and someone correct me if I’m wrong) under federal law Petty crimes are a separate class of crimes, and one of the things defining them as Petty is that they don’t carry any time in jail/prison. Little was charged under a statute that allowed for up to six months in prison. Seems to me while in the grand scheme of things it might be rated a “minor” crime but since the charge carried with it punishments of at least one month and up to six months in prison it must have been a Class B Misdemeanor. Up to six months, up to five years of probation and even provisions for supervision other than probation.
That begs the question of how legally it qualifies as a Petty Offense. And keep in mind that dozens of others where were convicted of/pled guilty to similar level crimes will be covered by this ruling unless the DOJ appeals. That’s a whole new issue which I won’t get into because I’d like to wrap this up.
Here’s why this matters. Garland wanted DOJ to round up and get quick convictions of hundreds of people. I say it was so he could point to all those convictions and say “Hey – we convicted a record number of people for an action that took place in a single afternoon” and then he could move on. That Garland NEVER wanted any part of going after the higher ups. Perhaps not even the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers leaders but for certain not the politicians and their cohorts who put the whole riot together and set it in motion that day.
So it was a “get convictions quick and if it takes getting misdemeanor convictions with little or no prison time to get lots of people to plead then get it done.” Some of these CONVICTS have been agitating for more of what happened on J6. That’s why probation and even supervised release as part of sentences was important. And the panel on the DC appellate court has just ruled no, you don’t get to make people serve a little time to give them a taste of prison and probation to make sure the lesson sunk in!
Do they not SEE what’s been going on in the country? And again I ask how, if someone pleads to or is convicted of a charge that includes prison time (even a misdemeanor) it qualifies under federal law as a PETTY Crime?
The last thing we need right now is MAGA goobers out there thinking that if Trump, even in “code” or via surrogates calls on them to act (and you know what I mean by “act”) that even if their hero again screws them (remember, Trump could have but didn’t issue a blanket pardon for those who took part in the riot) again they will answer the call. Because even a Democratic appointed AG like Garland will led them plead to basically nothing.
The whole thing makes me sick.