The following is a news analysis.
At the same time accused murderers are being released from custody under a broad movement to largely empty out prisons and jails, the federal government continues to throw the book at Donald Trump supporters for lesser alleged crimes.
The alleged politically-motivated actions are drawing attention and criticism from some civil rights activists and legal observers. One civil rights activist who works with whistleblowers and describes himself as a "devoted liberal," and who did not wish to be named for fear of political persecution, says the federal government's pattern of prosecutions is disturbing and raises Constitutional questions.
"People no longer have faith that justice is blind," says the official, who is an an executive at a national nonprofit organization. "They see that people on one side of the political spectrum are treated one way [and] the other side gets a pass."
Another political observer who did not wish to be named, and is from South Korea, remarked: "This is how Communism works. The [enemies] of powerful people are put in jail. They're just like political prisoners."
These views, widely expressed among some conservatives, are in stark contrast to many Democrats and President Biden supporters. The two sides have widely divergent views of the same events.
This week, a Florida Trump supporter who attended the January 6 rally, was sentenced to eight months in jail. Paul Hodgkins pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding. The government had asked for double time.
Prosecutors say Hodgkins admitted he went into the Capitol with a Trump flag and entered the empty Senate floor to try to disrupt the Congressional election certification that was underway. He was not charged with rioting, insurrection, or treason.
Federal Judge Randolph Moss said there needs to be “severe consequences” for the January 6 riots. Hodgkins was a "first time offender." It is not uncommon in the U.S. for first time offenders to be granted no jail time, but Hodgkins was not afforded the opportunity to avoid incarceration.
The second recent event is a guilty plea from the black leader of a group called the Proud Boys. Enrique Tarrio, also a Trump supporter, has pleaded guilty to burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn down from a church, and also to "attempted possession" of a "large-capacity ammunition feeding device." He was not charged with rioting, insurrection, or treason.
Tarrio is scheduled to be sentenced next month. He faces up to six months in jail and fines.
At the same time the feds are aggressively seeking out and prosecuting anyone they can find from the January 6 protests and rioting, accused killers and many hardened criminals have been released from jail and prison.
In New York City last April, 1,500 inmates were released in a three week period due to Covid concerns. authorities freed 18 Rikers Island prison inmates, including an accused murderer who allegedly stabbed his girlfriend to death. One report said those released included 329 “violent felony detainees."
Conservatives also note that last summer's lengthy and violent rioting by left-wing activists resulted in astronomical property damage, attacks on police, many injuries, and destroyed businesses; yet was allowed to go on largely unabated. Authorities counter by saying they have prosecuted many people who were involved in the Antifa-related rioting.
Also drawing criticism from some on the right as well as some on the left: the black Capitol Police lieutenant who shot and killed a white, unarmed protester, veteran Ashli Babbitt-- the only homicide at the January 6 incident-- was absolved from prosecution and his identity kept secret. The officer's supporters say he was a hero, preventing Babbitt and others from entering a lobby area at the Capitol not far from where members of Congress had been meeting.
Another example conservatives point to is the federal government encouraging illegal immigration and allowing "sanctuary" cities and states to protect those who have committed additional crimes in the U.S.
According to officials, the government has tracked down and charged more than 570 people in the January 6 riots. Reports indicate nobody has been charged with "treason" or "insurrection." Nonetheless, widespread media reports claim the suspects are "insurrectionists."
"Those continued claims about those who took part in the January 6 events appear to be slanderous," remarks the nonprofit official. "But who among them is going to sue over it?"
Jerry Bingham says
It's all about the power of optics, control, and sending a message to any conservative that they better stay in line, while allowing the left to burn cities with multiple "peaceful protests."
It is crystal clear that The Constitution does not apply to conservatives. Clearly it is only for liberals and criminal aliens.
If charged with anything, they should be charged with simple trespass. Nothing else. Their behaviors are misdemeanors, and they have already spent 6 months in solitary confinement. They have been punished enough, and if there were true justice in Biden’s America, they would have been released months ago..CWT
"This is how Communism works. The [enemies] of powerful people are put in jail.
They're just like political prisoners."
Actually, Aren't they political prisoners?
That's how corrupt the Washington DC government works, from CIA, FBI, NSA, Attorney General, IRS.
There all used by those in the circle of hidden power. It doesn't get anymore corrupt than that.
Keep up the great work Sharyl.
Ramona Kay Chan says
Totally agree with the double standard exhibited in this whole fiasco......justice is supposed to be blind, this is a glaring example of just the opposite!
Sentences like 6 months or 8 months can hardly be called "throwing the book".
If you can't read, don't comment.
First paragraph: "At the same time accused murderers are being released from custody under a broad movement to largely empty out prisons and jails, the federal government continues to throw the book at Donald Trump supporters for lesser alleged crimes."
If YOU can't read, Shiphrah, don't comment.
John Serak III says
If the legal system is broken or has become corrupted to the point where at least half of the population has nowhere to go for legal redress (just to be dealt unjustified legal outcomes), where do those people go? How will they react over time?
Betty Ernst says
Thank you for writing about this. It is not getting enough attention.