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Judge Bucks Trend on Riot Sentences

'There have to be consequences,' Judge Tanya Chutkan says about Capitol attack prosecutions
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2021 4:05 PM CDT
Rioters Should Face 'Consequences': Judge
In this image from US Capitol Police video, Paul Hodgkins stands on the floor of the US Senate on Jan. 6. In his case, the government suggested a sentence of 18 months, and Judge Randolph Moss gave him eight months.   (U.S. Capitol Police via AP)

(Newser) – Prosecutors asked for 30-day terms for two Capitol rioters when they were sentenced Wednesday in Washington. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan gave Robert Bauer of Kentucky and Edward Hemenway of Virginia 45 days each. On Tuesday, Chutkan gave another person convicted in the Jan. 6 attack—Dona Sue Bissey of Indiana—two weeks, though prosecutors wanted probation. She's imposed jail terms of 14 to 45 days in the past two weeks on defendants who pleaded guilty to riot charges, Reuters reports. "There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home," Chutkan said.

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She's not the only judge to be critical of sentences and recommendations she finds too lenient in the riot prosecutions. But in a case last week, Chutkan became the first judge to impose a harsher sentence than prosecutors sought. The chief judge of the federal court in Washington also expressed concern about allowing defendants to plead guilty to misdemeanors. Even those convicted of relatively minor crimes, Judge Beryl Howell said, were involved in "terrorizing members of Congress." During a hearing in August, Howell asked, "Does the government, in agreeing to the petty offense in this case, have any concern about deterrence?"

Chutkan, who was appointed a judge by former President Obama, raised that issue last week when Matthew Mazzocco was sentenced on a single misdemeanor charge, per WUSA. "A sentence of probation does not reflect the seriousness of the crime. … If Mr. Mazzocco walks away with probation and a slap on the wrist, that's not going to deter anyone from trying to do what he did," the judge said. "Nor do I agree with the government that confining him to his home, where he can be with his family, is appropriate." Among the selfies Mazzocco took on Jan. 6 was one he posted showing the building behind him with the caption, "The capital is ours!" Chutkan gave him 45 days. (Read more Capitol riot stories.)

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