Fact Checking a Claim About Sentencing Disparities
A viral tweet claimed that Washington, D.C., courts gave a January 6 rioter 10 years in prison for assaulting a police officer while two rioters who threw a Molotov cocktail in a police car at a 2020 Black Lives Matter-related riot received only five years.
While Greg Price is correct about the sentencing in the respective cases, he errs in describing this comparison as “A tale of criminal justice in DC.” Only one of the cases in question was decided in a D.C. court. The 2020 case was heard by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan in Brooklyn.
Further details are left out as well. The two BLM rioters threw the Molotov cocktail into an empty police car in New York City, and cut a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit arson and possess an explosive device, with a maximum possible sentencing of five years. As a part of the deal, the defendants paid the city of New York $30,137 each and the prosecutors recommended a sentence of 18 to 24 months.
The January 6 rioter, Thomas Webster, swung a metal flagpole at a police officer, tackled the officer, and choked him while he attempted to remove the officer’s gas mask and helmet. Webster did not plead guilty, instead arguing that he acted in self-defense. The jury did not find his argument convincing and found Webster guilty of five felonies: assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon; obstructing officers during a civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon; engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon, and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, while carrying a dangerous weapon.
Webster was also found guilty of the misdemeanor of engaging in an act of physical violence in the Capitol building or grounds. In addition to 10 years in prison, Webster received three years of supervised release post-release and a fine of $2,060.
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