Hundreds of crimes, little punishment: Inside the sentences since the Capitol attack

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This is a living database that will be updated weekly with new sentencing information, analysis and data throughout 2022.

More than 150 people have pleaded guilty to storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, but relatively few defendants have received prison time for their role in the insurrection.

A POLITICO analysis of every sentence to date in the Capitol riot shows that judges have been wary about imposing long prison terms except when violence, or the threat of it, was involved. A little over half of defendants who have pleaded guilty are still awaiting sentencing, and some of the most serious cases of violence against police officers are still awaiting their fate, so the length of prison time for the most serious offenders may change. See the full database

Additional sentencing hearings are booked for the early months of this year, and many more are expected to be added as defendants reach plea deals with prosecutors or are found guilty at trial.

There are more than 700 people who have been arrested for crimes tied to the assault on the Capitol and investigations are still ongoing, and roughly one-tenth of those — 71 — have been sentenced as of Jan. 1.

While these numbers represent just a fraction of the criminal cases to date, they have already become a template for future sentences — a foundation that is likely to solidify further as more and more cases reach their conclusion.

Here are several takeaways from the past year of sentences.

Judges aren't enamored with the low-level plea deals

The bulk of the sentences to date have been for relatively low-level offenses. The most common charge pleaded to, by far, is illegally parading or demonstrating in the Capitol, a misdemeanor, but judges have repeatedly aired their thoughts on the gravity of the damage done by members of the mob on Jan. 6.

“It brought the government to a screeching halt that day,” Judge Royce Lamberth, said during the sentencing of Frank Scavo in November. “The consequence to the nation … has to be weighed in the balance.”

On several occasions judges have expressed misgivings about whether the actual criminal charge matches the misdeeds of the defendant. Beryl Howell, the D.C. court’s chief judge, in late October said that prosecutors’ approach is “almost schizophrenic” given the cavernous gap between their characterization of the insurrection and the terms of the plea deals they’re negotiating.

“The rioters attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 were not mere trespassers engaging in protected First Amendment conduct or protests,” Howell said during that sentencing, during which Jack Griffith of Tennessee received three years of probation. “They were not merely disorderly, as countless videos show the mob that attacked the Capitol was violent. Everyone participating in the mob contributed to that violence.”

Prison time is rare — so far

Of the 70-plus people who have been sentenced, fewer than half have received prison time for their actions in the days surrounding the riot.

That’s in part because many of those sentenced so far were only convicted of illegally entering the Capitol building, and were not involved in the more violent and destructive aspects related to storming the building. Only seven defendants have been sentenced for felony charges, as of late December.

Among those defendants who are being incarcerated, their stints in prison are often somewhat brief. The median prison sentence to date is 45 days.

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