While more than three dozen people charged with various offenses related to the January 6 protest on Capitol Hill now rot in solitary confinement in a D.C. jail, Joe Biden’s Justice Department is letting off the hook violent protestors involved in the ongoing siege of Portland.
Politico on Wednesday reported federal prosecutors are seeking “deferred prosecution” for at least six people charged with disorderly conduct, attacking police officers, and interfering with law enforcement in that city last year. “Some lawyers attribute the government’s newfound willingness to resolve the Portland protest cases without criminal convictions to the arrival of President Joe Biden’s administration in January and to policy and personnel changes at the Justice Department,” Josh Gerstein wrote April 14. “Some of the assaults described in the Portland cases bear similarities to the Capitol violence.”
This includes assaults on law enforcement with various weapons including a shield—a few Capitol defendants face multiple charges for use or possession of a “deadly weapon,” a riot shield, inside the building on January 6—and flashing a laser at police aircraft. Offenders also face “civil disorder” charges similar to the “obstruction of an official proceeding” charge filed against more than 130 Capitol protestors.
Portland protestors, once the quasi-plea arrangement is settled, will come away with a clean record and serve no jail time. But legal observers admit the special treatment poses a stark difference in how Biden’s Justice Department is handling its “unprecedented” manhunt for January 6 perpetrators. “There are already signs the Portland deals could create contrasts or anomalies with the Capitol cases,” Gerstein wrote. “While the Portland defendants now face no jail or criminal conviction in connection with assaulting law enforcement, prosecutors in Washington have sought pretrial detention in virtually all the Capitol riot cases involving alleged assaults on police.”
Several Capitol defendants have been denied bail and transported from their home state to a D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility where they reportedly are held in solitary confinement and have been attacked by prison guards; some have been behind bars for three months. Judges continue to approve extended pre-trial detention even as trials are delayed due to both the pandemic and the caseload in the D.C. judicial system.
Prosecutors, however, might be hesitant to also offer deferred prosecution to Capitol defendants “amid lingering outrage over the Jan. 6 takeover,” a former federal judge told Gerstein.
The Justice Department already has dropped roughly one-third of the cases tied to last year’s violence in Portland. This includes protestors charged with assaulting federal officers; some cases were “dismissed with prejudice,” meaning the case cannot be brought back to court. “Three defendants cut plea deals resulting in probation and home detention,” Portland’s NBC News affiliate reported in March. “Two of the plea agreements required a relatively short prison sentence of 30 days. Several people closely involved with the protest cases, who asked not to be identified, said they expect many more federal charges to be dismissed soon.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s Justice Department continues to round up nonviolent Trump supporters from across the country and hold them as political prisoners.