Claims that Jan. 6 rioters are ‘political prisoners’ endure. Judges want to set the record straight

“You are not a political prisoner,” Mehta, who was nominated by President Barack Obama told Peter Schwartz. “You’re not Alexei Navalny,” the judge said referring to the imprisoned Russian opposition leader. “You’re not somebody who is standing up against injustice, who’s fighting against an autocratic regime. … You’re somebody who decided to take the day into his own hands, much in the same way that you have used your hands against others for much of your life.”

Lamberth’s scathing remarks came in the case of James Little, a North Carolina man who was not accused of any violence or destruction during the riot and pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor offense. Lamberth didn’t name the people responsible for what the judge called “shameless” attempts to rewrite history. But Trump has closely aligned himself with rioters during his presidential campaign. He has described them as “hostages,” called for their release from jail and pledged to pardon a large portion of them if he wins the White House in November.

Roughly 750 people charged with federal crimes in the riot have pleaded guilty and more than 100 others have been convicted at trial. Many rioters were charged only with misdemeanor offenses akin to trespassing while others face serious felonies such as assault or seditious conspiracy. Of those who have been sentenced, roughly two-thirds have received some time behind bars, with terms ranging from a few days of intermittent confinement to 22 years in prison, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

Lamberth had originally sentenced Little in 2022 to 60 days behind bars, followed by three years of probation. But Washington’s federal appeals court sided with Little on appeal, ruling he could not be sentenced to both prison time and probation. When Little’s case returned to Lamberth’s court, the judge resentenced him to 150 days — with credit for time already served in jail and on probation — citing the man’s claims of persecution and efforts to downplay the Jan. 6 attack.

“Little cannot bring himself to admit that he did the wrong thing, although he came close today,” Judge Lamberth wrote. “So it is up to the court to tell the public the truth: Mr. Little’s actions, and the actions of others who broke the law on Jan. 6, were wrong. The court does not expect its remarks to fully stem the tide of falsehoods. But I hope a little truth will go a long way.”

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