Judge Rebuked Republicans Over Warnings of Violence If Trump Is Charged
- A federal judge said patriotism is not standing up for a man “who knows full well that he lost.”
- Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted the recent increase in threats to law enforcement officials.
- Her comments came as she sentenced a Capitol rioter to more than seven years in prison.
In the aftermath of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump and his Republican allies have warned of violence breaking out in the streets if charges result from any of the investigations swirling around the former president.
For one federal judge, that rhetoric merited a message of deterrence on Tuesday.
At the sentencing of a Capitol rioter, Judge Amy Berman Jackson rebuked Republican leaders for “cagily predicting or even outright calling for violence in the streets if one of the multiple investigations doesn’t go his way.”
“The judiciary,” she said, “has to make it clear: It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man who knows full well that he lost instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert.”
Jackson’s remark came a month after Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, drew criticism for predicting there would be “riots in the streets” in the event the Justice Department charges Trump. The former president himself had previously responded to the search of his South Florida home and private club by warning that the “temperature has to be brought down in the country.
“If it isn’t,” Trump told Fox News Digital, “terrible things are going to happen.”
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have warned in recent weeks of a surge in threats to federal law enforcement officials in response to the court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago, where agents retrieved more than 11,000 documents, including about 100 marked as classified.
Jackson noted that rise in threats Tuesday as she sentenced the Capitol rioter Kyle Young to more than seven years in prison for assaulting a police officer guarding the Capitol during the January 6, 2021, attack. Young pleaded guilty in May and will be credited for the 17 months he spent behind bars since his arrest in April 2021.
The judge’s sentence aligned with what prosecutors had recommended for Young, who brought his 16-year-old son to the Capitol on January 6 and engaged in some of the most brutal clashes with police that day. Jackson on Tuesday pointed to the presence of Young’s teenage son, saying, “It defies understanding that the presence of your 16-year-old son by your side on January 6 did not inspire you to curb your behavior in the slightest.”
During the mayhem of January 6, Young pushed through the pro-mob to grab the wrist of a Washington, DC, police officer, Michael Fanone, as other rioters assaulted him. At one point, he passed a taser to another rioter, who used the device on Fanone’s neck.
Jackson said that, when she read in court papers that Young passed the taser used on Fanone, “it was like a punch in the stomach.”
“You can hear his screams on the video. Screams … while he’s begging, ‘I have children,’ you choose to join in. You aid the others around you and help to hold him down,” Jackson said.
Jackson noted that, in the video of the assault on Fanone, a “Blue Lives Matter” flag swirled overhead.
“It was obscene,” she said.
An Obama appointee confirmed in 2011, Jackson presided over some of the highest-profile cases brought as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Her stern remarks echoed those of other judges on the federal trial court in Washington, DC, who have attributed the violence of January 6 in part to Trump and top Republicans.
At past sentencing in January 6 cases, Judge Amit Mehta has said that many Capitol rioters charged with relatively low-level offenses were misled by prominent Republicans, including Trump, into believing the former president’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. In April, at the conclusion of one of the first jury trials in a January 6 case, Judge Reggie Walton referred to Trump as a “charlatan.”
Before Jackson handed down her sentence Tuesday, Fanone gave a victim-impact statement in which he recounted facing an onslaught of projectiles and being “ruthlessly beaten” on January 6. The violence that day “cost me my career,” Fanone said.
Fanone urged Jackson to order Young to serve a decade-long prison sentence.
“In my mind, that is what is justified,” Fanone said.
“What I hope you do with that time,” he added, “is I hope you suffer.”