Oct 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge criticizes Justice Department's plea deals for Jan. 6 defendants

U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell poses for photographs in her court room May 05, 2016 in Washington, DC.
U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell poses for photographs in her court room May 05, 2016 in Washington, DC. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A chief federal judge in Washington, DC's federal court criticized the Justice Department on Thursday for its handling of Jan. 6 rioters, calling the DOJ's approach "puzzling" and "muddled," the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the federal court handling the 650-plus Capitol riot cases, said that judges were unable to give heavier sentences because prosecutors keep offering rioters plea deals, CNN reports.

  • The plea deals also caused public confusion, she said, on whether what happened was a "petty offense of trespassing, or was shocking criminal conduct that posed a grave threat to our democratic norms," per the Post.

"What she's saying: “Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters,” Howell said.

  • “My hands are tied,” Howell said, per The Post. “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never been in this position before, and it’s all due to the government, despite calling this the crime of the century, resolving it with a . . . petty offense.”

Flashback: Attorney General Merrick Garland testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee last week on the DOJ's handling of the Jan. 6 probe.

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