Judge: Capitol Riot Defendants Deserve Credit for Cooperation

 

Protesters
Violent protesters stormed the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday suggested that Justice Department prosecutors consider seeking lighter sentences for the Capitol riot participants who agreed to talk about the incident with government investigators.

"I think that that kind of cooperation is helpful to this country and is helpful to making amends for what occurred on Jan. 6," Judge Beryl Howell said during a sentencing hearing on Friday, according to Politico, adding, "to the extent that that House select committee is able to be successful."

The judge made the remark after a public defender representing a defendant being charged in relation to the Capitol riot said that it would be a mistake for the Justice Department to refuse to give the defendants who expressed remorse and took responsibility by talking to Congress.

"That doesn’t seem like a wise position for the United States to take," said defense attorney Eugene Ohm.

Ohm’s client, Robert Schornak, pleaded guilty last November to breaching the Capitol building and stealing an American flag before taking pictures with other rioters. He later testified before the House select committee investigating the riot twice, where he answered "dozens of questions," according to his attorney.

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve said that Schornak has not expressed remorse for his actions, and the Justice Department sought a sentence of four to six months in prison.

"I don't think it's something that should be given great weight," Eve said on Friday. "We are not treating that in the same way that someone would be treated if they cooperated in a federal investigation."

Eve added, "I know that there are individuals … involved with the legislative investigation of the Jan. 6 event. But there's no intersection between what we're doing and what they're doing. We're acting completely independently."

Howell asked Eve if "the position that the U.S. attorney's office indicates at sentencing is that any such cooperation with the House select committee should not be considered as a factor? I just want to understand what the position is."

Eve said she was not presenting the department's official position on that issue, and noted that she is unaware of the department's official position.

Howell sentenced Schornak to 30 days of intermittent confinement, as well as two months of home detention, followed by 36 months of probation.

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