News & Politics

A Growing Number of Judges Are Questioning If Capitol Rioters Are Being Properly Punished

Over 650 people have been charged for actions involved with the Jan. 6 riots.

Trump supporters outside the Capitol on January 6. Photograph by Evy Mages

Dawn Bancroft pleaded guilty on Tuesday, September 28 for a misdemeanor charge, after the 59-year-old Pennsylvanian made a video leaving the Capitol amidst the January 6 riots saying she wanted to “shoot [Nancy Pelosi] in the friggin’ brain.” Some, including a senior District Judge, question why Bancroft wasn’t charged with a felony for threatening a government official. 

District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called the video of Bancroft “horrible” and “clearly troubling,” according to the Washington Post. Sullivan is not the first to question this issue. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell has also pushed for more of the rioters to face felony charges for obstructing Congress from certifying President Biden’s electoral college victory. In one hearing, according to the Post, Howell asked: “Does the government . . . have any concern about deterrence?”

Earlier in August, Howell raised concerns over why prosecutors are asking for a mere $1.5 million in compensation from Capitol rioter defendants, when U.S. taxpayers will be paying over $500 million as a result of the attack. The number may align with the approximate $1.495 million worth of damages to the Capitol building, though it pales in comparison to the $2.1 billion security bill passed in July— some of this money will go to the National Guard ($521 million) and the Capitol Police ($71 million).  

Over 650 people have been charged for actions involved with the Jan. 6 riots. Misdemeanor defendants have the opportunity to plead guilty to one of four charges if they entered the Capitol but did not cause any physical violence or damage. According to the Washington Post, many have plead guilty to “parading, demonstrating or picketing inside the Capitol building,” which serves a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. 

However some cases may need further evidence to ensure that rioters are properly charged. One man was nearly sentenced to a misdemeanor before footage surfaced of him assaulting police, according to the Washington Post. The incident made U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan question why the video was not found sooner: “We have to make sure we have everything we need to have.”

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Jason Fontelieu
Editorial Fellow