Workers at an Amazon warehouse in the city of Bessemer have cast their votes in an election that could shape the fate of Amazon – and the future of the labor movement in the United States.
“I think we can work out a non-procedural disposition in this case,” US deputy attorney Emory Cole told Judge Dabney Friedrich last week in the case of Kevin Loftus, who was charged with unlawful presence and disruption of official business at the Capitol was other crimes that became the kettle shield were charged against anyone who entered the building that day without a permit.
The Justice Department will soon find itself in the difficult position of defending such deals, even if trials and long sentences could be a year or more away for those facing more serious charges.
Add to this the political awkwardness: the expected wave of plea offers comes from the fact that former President Donald Trump appears to be intent on falsely rewriting the story of the January 6 attack. In an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News Thursday night, Trump suggested that prosecutors and the FBI were doing too much of the Capitol takeover, which killed five people and injured dozens of police officers.
“It wasn’t a threat. It was not a threat from the start, ”explained Trump. “Look, they went in – they shouldn’t have – some of them went in and they hug and kiss the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. Lots of people were waved in and then they went in and left out. “
Many of the rioters charged with the most serious crimes that day cited Trump’s own words as inspiration for storming the Capitol. The House also indicted Trump for instigating the January insurrection before the Senate acquitted him despite a 57-vote majority in favor of condemnation.
And prosecutors are under pressure from the judges to either back up their harsh talk about rioting or to cover it up. Michael Sherwin, the former January 6 chief prosecutor, was reprimanded last week by other senior prosecutors and Judge Amit Mehta for publicly flirting with the possibility of sedition charges when none had actually been charged.
Former federal attorney Paul Butler said he hoped those hardest hit by the Capitol uprising will not back off on the upcoming deals for many attendees.
“The punishment has to be proportional to the damage, but I think for many of us we will never forget to watch TV on January 6th and watch people go wild at the Capitol,” said Butler, now a law professor at Georgetown. “Everyone who was there was complicit, but they are not all equally complicit for the same harm.”
A standard set of four charges of misdemeanor have been filed by prosecutors in dozens of Capitol cases, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. But that phrase, or something close to it, is all but unknown in misdemeanor cases, lawyers said.
“Nobody goes to jail for a first or second offense,” Butler said flatly.
A defense attorney working on Capitol cases also said that what many in the court system refer to as “MAGA tourists” will almost certainly escape jail time.
“What about someone who has no criminal record, who was jazzed up by the president, walked in, spent fifteen minutes in the statue hall, and left? What is happening to this person? They won’t get a jail sentence for that, ”said the defense attorney, who asked not to be named.
“Such an event has a natural cycle,” added the lawyer. “People will say it was the end of the world, then things will calm down and they will start investigating cases based on what people actually did.”
Almost every day, federal judges are urging prosecutors to offer lower-level defendants to pleading agreements.
During a Friday hearing for Leo Brent “Zeeker” Bozell IV, son of prominent Conservative activist Brent Bozell, District Court judge John Bates urged a prosecutor to “act swiftly” to resolve the case or go to court .
The younger Bozell faces a mixture of felony and misdemeanor for allegedly forcing his way into the Capitol and eventually the Senate. He did not plead guilty to all charges on Friday.
“These cases will continue to move,” said Bates, a representative for President George W. Bush. “The government has to make discoveries. It has to develop a pleading policy and implement this policy in certain cases. “
The lower-level Capitol Riot defendants scored a significant victory on Friday when a federal appeals court said judges must distinguish the most serious, violent offenders from those who simply walked in amidst chaos.
“Two people who did not engage in violence and were not involved in planning or coordinating the activities – would appear to have posed little threat,” wrote DC Circuit judge Robert Wilkins.
Within hours of the verdict, judges and defense attorneys cited repeatedly to clarify who should and should not be jailed, while prosecutors tried to argue that some defendants were more dangerous than the mother-and-son team, which said positive on Friday Decision won.
The Court of Appeal’s verdict came amid increasing signs of impatience on the part of the judges: At least five defendants dated January 6 have been released in recent days on objections raised by prosecutors.
“The judges will start to get fed up with it. At some point they will do business in these cases, “said the defense attorney.
Some of those tensions over the pace of hundreds of cases became apparent at a hearing last week for Eduardo Nicolas Alvear Gonzalez, 32, who was known for his productive use of pots on social media during the Capitol riot. He was arrested in southern Virginia on February 9 and detained by a judge there for trying to evade the police. It took Marshals more than a month to get Alvear Gonzales to Washington.
At last week’s hearing, a Washington federal judge released Alvear Gonzalez into the care of a friend in California. U.S. District Court judge James Boasberg said he was concerned that Alvear Gonzalez had already spent as much, and perhaps more, time in jail than he was likely to get on Jan. 6 for his actions.
“He worked for nearly two months on an offense,” said Boasberg, a representative for President Barack Obama. The judge said he expected pleading agreements in similar cases to include “assignments with no prison or 30-day assignments,” which means prosecutors would agree to propose to the judges if the defendant pleaded guilty.
While most of the offense-only accused are out of jail, U.S. assistant attorney Troy Edwards said prosecutors understand the urgency of solving the smaller cases.
“I am very aware of that,” said Edwards. “That is a primary consideration.”
Prosecutors have tried to delay all cases on the grounds that tens of thousands of hours of social media, surveillance, and body-worn camera videos compiled by the FBI from the Capitol riot must be posted on a platform where Defense counsel acting in all cases may have access to it. But defenders of many so-called MAGA tourists say the lawyers don’t want to see the entire collection, that it is definitely too much for them to look at, and that lower-level cases shouldn’t be postponed for months at a time.
On Monday, Judge Zia Faruqui said prosecutors needed to accelerate the pace.
“Let’s get it going,” Faruqui said during consecutive hearings on Capitol cases. “There are concerns, still percolating here in the courthouse, about things that are moving.”
In virtually all non-criminal offenses, charges are likely to be grouped as violations under federal sentencing guidelines. While these guidelines include a small improvement for entering a “restricted” building or site, defendants without significant criminal history consider the lowest possible range: zero to six months. “Zero” months mean no jail at all.
“Violations are as mild as we can get … There’s really no way you can boil the books or guidelines to get more than zero to six,” said Douglas Berman, law professor at Ohio State University, a leading criminal law agency Convictions. “This is a case where the aggravating factors are not built into the book.”
Prosecutors could ask judges to sentence lower-level defendants to more than six months in prison. However, this could disrupt the confession of guilt efforts and irritate the judges handling more serious cases in the Capitol.
In theory, some defendants could be entitled to a “pre-trial diversion” that could allow them to escape criminal conviction by completing a probationary period. According to the Ministry of Justice’s guidelines, however, such regulations should not be applied in cases “related to national security”. Given the fact that officials are announcing the involvement of the National Security Division of the Judiciary in the investigation, this option appears unlikely.
“You will have political pressure not to agree to parole,” said Berman.
Some defendants appear to have added a criminal obstruction charge to their misdemeanor charges based on comments on social media or videos from the Capitol building allegedly intended to disrupt the election count.
This means that a defendant who shouted “Stop the Steal” in the Capitol or posted QAnon speculation about the Insurrection Act on social media may face far more serious charges than someone who did the exact same thing on Jan. 6 however, there are no public records of such statements. The disability charge, which essentially corresponds to the obstruction of justice in a court case, provides for a maximum possible prison sentence of 20 years.
“Basically, if you say what you heard from the president half an hour ago, it begs the question of how the first amendment is going to be applied in all of these cases,” said one defense attorney.
Another factor that prosecutors and judges might weigh is that the judicial system’s handling of offenses is currently the subject of intense scrutiny in criminal justice reform circles. Reformers say that such petty charges often cause serious complications in the lives of the minority defendants they normally face.
“A lot of blacks or browns don’t benefit from individual judgment or breaks,” Butler said. “I think this is going to be a record number of whites appearing in federal criminal court in DC. If they receive grace, prosecutors should ensure that everyone else who persecutes them receives the same grace. They are mainly colored and low-income people. “
The former prosecutor hopes that the Capitol’s senior law enforcement agencies will draw attention to the underlying justice issues and the fact that the vast majority of federal cases will be resolved not through legal process but through the upcoming negotiation of the plea.
“This could be an educational moment for the public here,” said Butler.
Hashimoto said she realizes that light sentences might be unsatisfactory for those outraged by the January 6 events, but jailing the junior offenders really isn’t going to help. “I don’t think this will heal the injuries and trauma this country has felt,” she said. “You should focus on the people who are most culpable.”