Judge to Capitol riot defendant: ‘Patriotism is loyalty to country, loyalty to the Constitution’
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Judge Amy Berman Jackson listens during the investiture ceremony for U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden April 13, 2018 at the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC.
A federal judge rejected the argument that US Capitol rioters held in jail are being prosecuted for their political views and disavowed attempts to downplay the magnitude of the deadly insurrection during a sentencing on Wednesday.
“You called yourself and everyone else patriots, but that’s not patriotism,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson said of defendant Karl Dresch. “Patriotism is loyalty to country, loyalty to the Constitution, not loyalty to a head of state. That is the tyranny we rejected on July 4.”
Jackson, known for her sharp criticism of the Trump administration’s moves, called Dresch an “enthusiastic participant” in the effort “to subvert democracy, to stop the will of the people and replace it with the will of the mob.”
The federal court in Washington, DC, has repeatedly acted as a referee about the severity of the January 6 attack, with several judges expressing their disgust with defendants’ actions and the shocking violence and details being made public as Capitol riot cases move through the courts and prosecutors reveal evidence they’ve gathered.
Dresch, 41, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally demonstrating in the Capitol building, which has become a typical plea deal that the Justice Department has offered to nonviolent rioters who did not go far into the building. Jackson sentenced Dresch to six months in jail. He will be released Wednesday because he has been in jail since mid-January and will receive credit for time already served.
During the hour-long hearing, Jackson pointed to Dresch’s posts on social media, before and after the riot, which liken January 6 to a revolution, call the day a “total victory” and say that “traitors” in Congress now “know who’s really in charge,” as evidence of how many people continue to reject the results of the election and how self-described revolutionaries could be pushed to act again.
“The defendant did not spend six months in jail because he is a political prisoner. He was not prosecuted for his political views,” Jackson said. “The defendant came to the Capitol because he placed his trust in someone who repaid that trust by lying to him.”
Jackson has handled some of the most politically significant court cases of the Trump era and its aftermath, and has been outspoken in her criticism of lying, threats and criminal actors connected to former President Donald Trump and his administration.
In May, Jackson wrote that Trump “continues to propagate the lie that inspired the attack on a near daily basis,” and that “the anger surrounding the false accusation continues to be stoked by multiple media outlets as well as the state and federal party leaders who are intent on censuring those who dare to challenge the former President’s version of events.”
Dresch was given the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor because of his criminal history – including a 2013 incident where he fled from police, resulting in a high-speed car chase across state lines. He is the third Capitol riot defendant who has received jail time following a guilty plea, and many of the more than 550 Capitol riot criminal cases still aren’t resolved. It’s unlikely that other rioters who plead guilty to the same charge will receive the full six-month maximum sentence.