For many people, the glacial pace of the investigation of the January 6th attack on the Capitol and the failure of the former guy to face any consequences for what many see as his obvious instigation of the seditious assault on our nation’s democratic processes are so frustrating that they have fallen into a cynical state of resignation over the prospect of ever witnessing justice be served.
The words of a federal judge on Friday may offer these disheartened folks a measure of hope that their cynicism may be misplaced and that the possibility of Donald Trump facing consequences for his words and actions may eventually turn into reality.
Judge Amit Mehta was presiding over the sentencing phase of a case involving John Lolos, a member of the violent crowd who stormed the Capitol on January 6th, crawling through a broken window to enter the building and parade through the premises.
Lolos eventually exited the Capitol without consequence but was arrested after being recognized by a police officer from an Instagram video of his incursion after Lolos was kicked off his return flight home for refusing to stop chanting “Trump 2020” during the boarding process.
Despite the fact that Lolos was largely unrepentant during his trial — spouting false claims of election fraud as a rationale for his behavior, insisting that he thought that his presence in the Capitol Building was perfectly legal, and blaming the news media, rather than his own behavior, for destroying his life — Judge Mehta sentenced the unabashed insurrectionist to less time in prison than the even the meager 30 days recommended by federal prosecutors.
It was the reasoning that Judge Mehta cited for sentencing Lolos to only 14 days of incarceration that brought attention to what was otherwise a routine case among the many current prosecutions of insurrection participants: Lolos and the other MAGA faithful who stormed the Capitol did not begin their riotous march without the urging and implied imprimatur of Donald Trump himself.
“He didn’t purposely come to Washington, D.C., to storm the Capitol,” Judge Mehta declared from the bench duirng the sentancing. “The fact remains that he and others were called to Washington, D.C., by an elected official, prompted to walk to the Capitol by an elected official.”
“People like Mr. Lolos were told lies, told falsehoods, told our election was stolen when it clearly was not,” Mehta added, placing the blame for the insurrection squarely at the feet of Trump and his GOP allies who organized and funded the “Stop the Steal” rally. “We’re here today deciding whether Mr. Lolos should spend 30 days in jail when those who created the conditions that led to Mr. Lolos’ conduct, led to the events of Jan. 6 [haven’t been] held to account for their actions and their word.”
“In a sense, Mr. Lolos, I think you were a pawn,” Mehta mused. “You were a pawn in a game directed and played by people who should know better. I think that mitigates your conduct.”
While Judge Mehta’s searing words holding Trump accountable for his followers’ actions may be satisfying for many people to hear, without action from Congress and the Justice Department to follow through with an indictment of the former president, the federal judge’s opinion will not seriously impact Trump in the least.
As a measure of how other members of the federal judiciary may respond if — or, more hopefully, when — Trump is brought to trial for his misdeeds, however, Mehta’s words are an encouraging sign.
As we not-so-patiently wait for the wheels of Justice to roll over the former president, we’ll take any encouraging sign we can get.
Original reporting by Kyle Cheney at POLITICO.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.