Kansas City Star analysis reveals many Capitol riot defendants are getting off with 'light sentences'

Kansas City Star analysis reveals many Capitol riot defendants are getting off with 'light sentences'

Although some Capitol riot defendants are being sent to federal prison — Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. The QAnon Shaman, received a 41-month sentence — others are getting off with probation, fines and/or home detention. The Kansas City Star’s Judy L. Thomas, reporting on a defendant in her area of the U.S., poses the question: Are some of the people who attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 getting off easy?

Thomas reports that on December 8, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols sentenced Jennifer Parks “to two years’ probation, 60 hours of community service and $500 in restitution for her role in the January 6 riot.” Federal prosecutors, according to Parks, “had recommended one month of home detention, three years’ probation, 60 hours of community service and $500 restitution.”

“Those who monitor extremist groups wonder why the government is allowing defendants in what it is calling ‘a criminal offense unparalleled in American history’ to plead guilty to low-level misdemeanors — and in most cases so far, recommending light sentences with little or no jail time,” Thomas reports.

One of the people who believes that Capitol riot defendants deserve stiffer sentences, according to Thomas, is Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst on domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Johnson told the Star, “By not convicting them on the more serious charges, you’re sending a message that this type of behavior is permissible and can be tolerated. And it emboldens these people even more so, because they see that the government’s kind of on their side.”

The former DHS official also argues that lenient sentences for Capitol riot defendants sends out a message that “white privilege” is alive and well in the United States. The vast majority of far-right extremists who attacked the Capitol Building on January 6 were white.

Johnson told the Star, “For all the minority groups out there, this really sends a message that there’s an institutionalization of white privilege. If you’re white and commit these crimes, you’re going to get lesser sentences than if you’re a minority member committing these crimes.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell, Thomas notes, has also complained that Capitol riot defendants are getting off easy. In late October, the Washington Post reported that Thomas said, “No wonder parts of the public in the U.S. are confused about whether what happened on January 6 at the Capitol was simply a petty offense of trespassing with some disorderliness, or shocking criminal conduct that represented a grave threat to our democratic norms. Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters.”

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Thomas reports, “The government’s memorandum in Parks’ case, filed December 1, includes tables indicating the penalties imposed for those who have been sentenced so far. The tables show that 37 of the 45 defendants listed have pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Of those 45 defendants, 19 have received sentences that included jail time. The incarceration lengths range from 14 days to 41 months, but most are for 60 days or less.”

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