Chief DC federal judge blasts GOP's 'legitimate political discourse' description of Capitol attack

The chief judge of Washington, DC’s federal court lambasted the Republican Party Thursday for saying that the January 6, 2021, attack at the US Capitol was “legitimate political discourse.”

“A major political party has described what happened on January 6 as legitimate political discourse,” Chief Judge Beryl Howell said, seemingly referencing recent comments from the Republican National Committee. “So it bears repeating again and again, this was not legitimate political discourse. This was not a protest.”
Howell is the second judge to reference comments from the RNC, which described the events around January 6 as “legitimate political discourse” in a resolution formally censuring GOP Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.
    An appointee of President Barack Obama, Howell has set the tone for many of the Capitol riot proceedings playing out in DC’s federal courthouse. She was among the first to sharply criticize political leaders for publicly minimizing the effect of January 6, and to question whether government leaders — including at the Justice Department — are appropriately reckoning with what happened at the Capitol.
      The government, Howell suggested Thursday, also bears “some responsibility” for public perception that January 6 was merely protest gone wrong, noting that numerous defendants of the deadly riot have been allowed to plead guilty to the low-level misdemeanor of unlawfully protesting.
        Howell’s comments came during two sentencing hearings on Thursday. One of the defendants, Brian Stenz, pleaded guilty in November to illegally protesting in the Capitol on January 6. According to court documents, Stenz was in the Capitol for eight minutes and went into Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.
        Howell sentenced Stenz to 14 days in jail and three years of probation, citing his five previous criminal convictions including one conviction for lying on a government form in order to buy a firearm. Howell also said that she wanted Stenz to be on probation through the next presidential election cycle in 2024.
          During the hearing, Stenz said he was “ashamed” for joining the mob.
          “Trump at the Ellipse was a protest,” Stenz said. “What happened at the Capitol was not.”
            During the sentencing of James Lollis Jr. — a rioter who put a ‘f*ck antifa’ sticker on the Senate wing door of the Capitol — Howell said the “results of the (2020) election are unassailable.” Lollis was sentenced to three years probation and three months home detention.
            More than 100 people have been sentenced for charges stemming from the January 6 attack. Less than half have received jail time.

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