Two Trump-appointed federal judges have rejected January 6 defendants’ claims that they are being treated unfairly because of their conservative politics, in comparison to left-wing rioters in Portland, Oregon, in the summer of 2020.
Judge Trevor McFadden became the second judge in two weeks to reject the comparisons, which are popular in right-wing circles, after his colleague in the federal court in Washington, DC, Carl Nichols issued a similar ruling last week.
McFadden and Nichols both stated that the arguments of the defendants in the US Capitol riots lacked sufficient evidence to establish discrimination.
In one case, on January 6, defendant David Lee Judd asked McFadden to look into Justice Department records about prosecution decisions in Portland and Washington, DC, claiming he was being treated unfairly in comparison to similar defendants on the West Coast. The Capitol rioters were overwhelmingly Trump supporters who were dissatisfied with the outcome of the 2020 election, whereas many of the left-leaning protesters in Portland said they were fighting against racial inequality and police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
McFadden turned down Judd’s request on Tuesday, explaining that the Portland riots did not have the same severe consequences as the January 6 attempted coup.
“While both Portland and January 6 rioters attacked federal buildings,” McFadden wrote, “the Portland defendants primarily attacked at night, implying that they raged against a largely vacant courthouse.” “In contrast, rioters attacked the Capitol in broad daylight on January 6. And a large number of people participated in it. Their actions put hundreds of federal officials in the Capitol complex in danger. Members of Congress huddled beneath chairs, while staffers barricaded themselves in offices, fearful of physical attacks from rioters.” Judd is charged as part of a nine-person indictment stemming from a three-hour brawl inside one of the Capitol tunnels. Prosecutors claim he threw a firecracker at police while they were attempting to restrain the mob. He entered a not-guilty plea.
On December 21, Nichols, who was weighing the case against another January 6 defendant, Garrett Miller, stated that the unrest in the two cities had “obvious differences” and that the disruptions put hundreds of government officials in danger.
“While obviously serious, the Portland rioters’ conduct did not target a proceeding prescribed by the Constitution and established to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” Nichols wrote. “Nor, unlike those who stormed America’s Capitol in 2021, did the Portland rioters make it past the buildings’ outer defenses.”
McFadden did criticize the Justice Department for dropping cases against rioters in Oregon, decisions made by prosecutors during both the Trump and Biden administrations, he noted — calling the moves “suspicious.”
McFadden’s harsh words for the Justice Department are likely to fuel right-wing criticism of law enforcement’s aggressive approach to hundreds of January 6 defendants, many of whom are now portraying themselves as political martyrs.
McFadden pointed out that the Justice Department eventually dropped 27 cases against Portland rioters, including five felonies. “Rarely has the Government demonstrated such a lack of interest in vigorously prosecuting those who attack federal officers,” he wrote, echoing a similar criticism he made earlier this fall. “The Justice Department must strive for even-handed justice, especially during times of politically charged unrest. In Portland, Judd raises troubling questions about the Department’s adherence to this imperative.”
These comparisons have also been rejected by the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors have stated that many of the Capitol rioters brag about their alleged crimes and post photos online, whereas the majority of the Portland rioters tried to conceal their identities by wearing masks and bandannas and rioting at night.