A federal appeals court Friday ruled that prison, followed by probation, is not appropriate for January 6 defendants charged with minor offenses.
James Little of North Carolina committed a petty offense, the appeals court opined. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced him to 60 days in prison, followed by three years of probation.
Little admitted, he “took over the Capital [sic]” because “[s]tealing elections is treason.” He later pleaded guilty to: Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building, which is a petty offense.
The defendant appealed the lengthy probation following his brief prison sentence, asking the appeals court to decide if imposing both prison and probation for a minor offense is legal.
“It is not,” ruled a three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington District. “Probation and imprisonment are alternative sentences that cannot generally be combined. So the district court could not impose both for Little’s petty offense.”
This decision might have implications for several other cases, according to a report from TrendingPolitics.
This recent ruling could potentially nullify the sentences of numerous Jan. 6 defendants, raising questions about U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves’ aggressive prosecution approach.
Graves has been actively pursuing individuals involved in the Jan. 6 events, even as time has passed since the incident, which briefly escalated into a minor riot.
Many Jan. 6 defendants have either been found guilty or have admitted guilt to minor trespassing offenses, such as picketing or parading. The sentences they’ve received can be considered stringent for their alleged offenses.
The recent court decision might influence the outcomes for approximately 80 defendants who were given “split sentences,” meaning they were sentenced to both jail time and probation for minor offenses.
Even though many of these individuals have already served their prison sentences, future sentencing might be adjusted based on this ruling.
“The Court must not only punish Little for his conduct but also ensure that he will not engage in similar conduct again during the next election,” Lamberth explained in his ruling.
“Some term of imprisonment may serve sentencing’s retributive goals,” he continued. “But only a longer-term period of probation is adequate to ensure that Little will not become an active participant in another riot.”
The Department of Justice has the option to appeal this decision.
A representative from the U.S. attorney’s office commented, “We are reviewing the Court’s ruling and will determine our next steps in accordance with the law.”