Aug 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge questions $1.5M Capitol riot restitution cap

Judge Howell at the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, in 2018

Beryl Howell, chief U.S. District judge for the District of Columbia, in 2018. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal judge asked prosecutors Monday to explain why restitution in Capitol riot cases was limited to $1.5 million for repairs to the building when the total cost to taxpayers was $500 million, per Politico.

Of note: D.C. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell's comments come about two weeks after she questioned whether it's appropriate for prosecutors to offer defendants misdemeanor plea deals in cases that saw insurrectionists "terrorizing members of Congress."

Driving the news: Howell made the comments about costs during the plea hearing of Glenn Wes Lee Croy, 46, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who "pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building" after attending a pro-Trump rally, according to KUSA.

What they're saying: Howell questioned why the U.S. attorney’s office was looking to "require only $2,000 in each felony case and $500 in each misdemeanor case," the Washington Post notes.

  • "I'm accustomed to the government being fairly aggressive in terms of fraud when there have been damages that accrue from a criminal act for the restitution amount," she said, according to WashPost.
  • "Where we have Congress acting, appropriating all this money due directly to the events of Jan. 6, I have found the damage amount of less than $1.5 million — when all of us American taxpayers are about to foot the bill for close to half a billion dollars — a little bit surprising."
  • Prosecutor Clayton O'Connor told the judge he'd be "happy" to get her the answer to her cost question, Politico reports.

Context: Congress last month passed a $2.1 billion Capitol security bill to help cover the costs incurred during the deadly insurrection.

  • This included $70.7 million for the Capitol Police response to the attack and $521 million to reimburse the National Guard for deploying guards to help with security efforts on Jan. 6 and after.

Background: Prosecutors announced riot damage estimate of "approximately $1,495,326.55" in June. While it was unclear how it arrived at this figure, it seems to be related to damages such as broken windows, according to the Washington Post.

  • A spokesperson for the Architect of the Capitol said the agency "gave damage assessments to the Justice Department, which calculated the per-case penalty, and separate assessments to House and Senate appropriators for wider security costs," the outlet reports.
  • The U.S. attorney's office has declined to comment on Howell's latest remarks beyond what was said in court.
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