Howell sentenced the veteran military man to home confinement with probation. He said that he showed genuine remorse by speaking to members of Congress on a select committee to help deter others with the specialized training you [received] during the military and not turn it against other Americans."
Despite their low profile, Howells and Chutkan used their courtrooms for a national reckoning on Jan. 6, and to raise alarms about the Trump-aligned rioters' fundamental attack on American democracy. The judges complement and strengthen the efforts of House investigators to get information from Trump's confidants. They are also helping to frame the stakes in the national debate.
On January 6, rioters attacked the Capitol not as trespassers but to protest First Amendment rights. Numerous videos clearly show that the mob attacked Capitol with violence. Howell stated that everyone involved in the mob contributed violence at a sentencing hearing last Wednesday. Our democracy's reputation was damaged, as it is often held up in the world. However, January 6 has caused a significant damage.
Howell felt the attack on Capitol particularly close to her heart. From 1993 to 2002, she was a top aide of the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.Vt.). Leahy described her during her confirmation hearing as one of the most efficient members of the Senate Judiciary Committee's staff from 1993 to 2002.
Howell noted in Jan. 6 cases that the attack on her office was partially visible from the east-facing windows of her courthouses. As she described the alleged conduct by some of the rioters in her Courtroom, such as Thomas Sibick who tore away the badge of D.C. police Officer Michael Fanone's radio and stripped him of his radio, Howell expressed outrage. She has also pressed prosecutors to be more clear about the threat the Jan. 6 attack posed for democracy, calling the Justice Departments approach at times almost schizophrenic.
Howell also criticized prosecutors for failing to challenge a federal Appeals Court decision that facilitated Eric Munchel's pretrial release. Munchel was a rioter who took a photo of himself driving through the Senate gallery, while wearing zip ties.
Howell made it clear that she sees her role partly in bringing more information about the insurrection to the public. She has demanded the release of surveillance footage, which is closely held by U.S. Capitol Police and other videos used by prosecutors. She has asked defendants to explain why they entered the Capitol. This is beyond what other judges ask of defendants in courtrooms.
Ronald Weich, an aide to Harry Reid, stated that she felt deeply about the Jan. 6 offenses. It was very distressing to see that happen, especially after having seen it many times before in those corridors. Judge Howell would have experienced the exact same reaction. However, she is a judge and must put her emotions aside.
Defense attorneys for some of these rioters have shown Howell respect, even though they have criticized their clients' actions on Jan. 6. Daniel Lindsey, a Gruppos attorney, said that he appreciated Howell's understanding of his clients' assertions that Trump drove his presence at Capitol. He described Howell as a brilliant jurist and a photographer with a photographic memory.
However, her sharp questions have also made others uncomfortable. Glenn Croy's attorney, who is one of over 100 rioters who pleaded guilty for their actions Jan. 6, stated that Howells intimidating tone caused him to mistakenly claim that he wanted to disrupt Congress that day.
Kira West, the attorney, stated that undersigned counsel does not mean disrespect to the Court. However, the plea agreement in this case was the most difficult in nearly thirty years of criminal prosecution and defense careers for undersigned counsel.
Like Howell, Chutkan used her courtroom for rebuking defendants' attempts to minimize the events of Jan. 6. Troy Smocks (Black) was criticized by Chutkan for claiming racism played a part in her courtroom decision to hold him. He had issued threats of violence via social media against legislators related to Jan. 6. In recent weeks, she delivered sentences that were twice as severe than the Jan. 6 cases.
Chutkan stated that he went to the Capitol to support one man and not our country. This is one of few clear Trump references judges make when they are considering these cases.
After Judge Trevor McFadden (Trump appointee) questioned the government's Jan. 6 cases, Chutkans comments in this case were questioned. He also wondered if they had taken a different approach toward the riots that occurred in D.C. during the summer 2020. Chutkan said that she was listening to comments made by other judges in these cases and rejected the comparison. She stated that Jan. 6 defendants were treated more gently than those who were charged in the summer because the pro-Trump protesters were not arrested immediately and were allowed to take part in the proceedings remotely. She noted that many have been granted single-count plea agreements despite being charged with multiple offenses.
Participation in a violent overthrow of government must be punished. Chutkan delivered Mazzocco's sentence. The whole country is watching. The country is watching.
However, Chutkans most important moment will be Thursday when she preside over a hearing in Trump's lawsuit to block the National Archives sharing Trump's White House records with Jan. 6 investigators. These records contain hundreds of pages, culled from files of Mark Meadows, Stephen Miller, and Patrick Philbin. These records include call logs and visitor logs, drafts of speeches and memos that were deemed relevant by the Archives to House investigators. Unless a court intervenes, David Ferriero, Archivist, plans to send the first batch of documents to legislators on November 12.
Chutkan has not indicated where Trump's efforts will land, but legal experts believe that Trump's expansive and unprecedented view of executive privilege as a former president is unfounded. They believe her decision to quickly put Trump's case before the court is an indication of her thinking.
I believe we are seeing a similar sense from Chutkan in terms of urgency expressed initially by the schedule. This is very aggressive said Norm Eisen who was a House Judiciary Committee adviser and has co-signed a brief urging Chutkan not to accept Trump's case. She has spoken out about January 6 before, at plea hearings, and sentencings in which January 6 defendants admitted to their misconduct. When she sits down on Thursday, I expect to hear the same sense about the importance of moving quickly.
Eisen stated that the only question is whether D.C. Eisen said that the only remaining question is whether the D.C. Circuit and possibly the Supreme Court will allow a Trump ruling to stand without a long review. The Jan. 6 committee's success may hinge on how these courts respond.
He said that Judge Chutkan's decision and those of the appellate courts, which I believe will back Trumps argument, were the most important outside factors in the functioning of the committees.