Mehta also referred to a Monday night article in the New York Times This described the internal Justice Department’s deliberations on seditious conspiracy allegations and indicated that high-ranking officials believed they were deliberately organized in the case of the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members came to the capital in an organized manner on Jan. most likely would be used. Ten Oath Guards have been charged so far, and up to five more are expected to be added to the alleged conspiracy.
“These defendants are entitled to a fair trial that is not carried out in the media,” Mehta said as he opened the conference, which included senior executives in the US attorney’s office. “I will not tolerate continued advertising in the media.”
Mehta said he would consider a gag order if he saw additional public comments, and noted that his court has rules that restrict public comments from attorneys that may affect a case.
“These kinds of statements in the media have the potential to sway the jury pool. I intend to enforce this rule vigorously,” said Mehta, a representative appointed by President Barack Obama. “The government should honestly know better.”
Mehta’s comments were untypical of the typically meek judge who rarely uses his courtroom for the kind of disguise he put in on Tuesday, and it showed how seriously he took DOJ violations.
John Crabb, the head of the criminal investigation department of the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, offered Mehta’s concern.
“Regarding the 60 minute interview … the Department of Justice has rules and procedures that govern contact with the media. As far as we can tell, these rules and procedures have not been followed, ”said Crabb. The matter had been referred to the DOJ’s Professional Responsibility Bureau for internal review.
Crabb said the Times story is also the subject of an internal review.
As a token of concern, Mehta ordered all attorneys enlisted in the case to attend the Tuesday afternoon video conference where he disguised the government over the public statements and leaks. Veteran prosecutor Channing Phillips, who replaced Sherwin as acting US attorney earlier this month, was absent. However, three of his chief deputies were: Crabb, J. P. Cooney, and Gregg Maisel.
Mehta also provided an opportunity for all defense lawyers to weigh the 10 oath guards charged in the case, with several expressing concerns that the public comments might harm their clients.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday whether senior officials knew or had given permission to Sherwin’s interview in advance. The Department of Justice guidelines give US attorneys significant discretion in speaking to the media. However, it is considered inappropriate to discuss evidence or make statements that may impede a defendant’s ability to get a fair trial.
Sherwin’s comments on CBS echoed similar comments he leveled during the Capitol investigation’s commencement in January when he announced the more serious indictments coming. However, seditious allegations of conspiracy have not yet been filed, although Sherwin has left his post and returned to the US law firm in South Florida.
The judges have so far resisted some of the evidence presented against the Oath Guards, stating that prosecutors have not yet been required to provide evidence that the group’s members intended to breach the Capitol to disrupt the constitutionally required electoral college vote count.
Internal messages from prosecutors show they are making plans to attend the events related to electoral college certification, including the safety of speakers at former President Donald Trump’s rally near the White House. They also reveal claims made by some of the group’s leaders that they used guns to set up multiple outposts outside of DC’s borders. The prosecutors have emphasized in their files that the investigations against the oath guards have not yet been concluded.