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Guilty Pleas vs. Guilty Pleas
There is a lot of back and forth these days on Ricochet, Twitter, etc. about J6 defendants generally and Jacob Chanley in particular having entered guilty pleas. Some say the plea proves the justness of the charges, and others say the system coerced the plea.
At the heart of the debate is the “plea deal.” A plea deal is not necessarily a guilty plea motivated by remorse and a desire to be accountable. It is a negotiation where the State is willing to demand less in punishment (sometimes a lot less) to secure a conviction, and a defendant calculates that the outcome when weighing in multiple factors — cost (if any) of litigating, pre-trial confinement, sentencing, post-release status, type of incarceration — he/she is better off taking the deal than going to trial. A plea deal shortcuts the process and disengages the engine of due process, assuming as it does that the safeguards for the defendant are now rendered moot.
Plea deals are probably best in two circumstances: (1) processing repeat petty criminals, and (2) securing witnesses knowledgeable of a crime because they had a limited role in it. The former group are recidivists that need to be back in jail promptly and making a small deal expedites the process without a big “give” from the government. (The problem arises when a person appears to be escalating from property crimes to violence but the system just pleas away until a murder is committed.) Plea deals for the latter group is just if the person’s role was minor and they are not a career criminal. Note that a plea deal is not a grant of immunity, which is another tool to get witness testimony, but which enables the person to completely evade punishment.
Plea deals are not justice when the underlying basis for prosecution is weak. And here is where the J6 looks more like a political pogrom than a righteous rendering of justice for an attack on our democratic system of government. Defendants were arrested from around the country, sometimes by tactical units, and brought to a place where emotions ran high amongst a jury pool massaged by media to believe that the Trump Administration was a Russian coup and that tyranny had fallen on America. Many were put into solitary confinement for months on end. Few of the defendants had the financial means to obtain private counsel. In parallel, the media and Democrat political operatives were working diligently to warn off any attorney willing to represent a J6 defendant.
Faced with this circumstance, and represented by public defenders who may have sincerely thought (because they, too, lived where the jury pool lived) that your best interests were served by confessing the errors of political thinking that could have motivated your participation at any level in the J6 event, who wouldn’t accept a plea deal? Even if that deal required you to say something that did not happen, to confess to motivations and intentions you did not possess?
And when you compare the DOJ and federal law enforcement response to J6 to its response to the attack on the White House, the siege of federal courthouse in Portland, and other acts of politically motivated mayhem, there is a stark differential in the energy, zeal, and effort to incarcerate. Is it because it was the Capitol? I get the importance of the symbol. But it represents a fundamental difference between conservatives and Progressives: America does not reside in the Capitol, it resides in the beating heart of all Americans, not just the centers of power.
The Bible relates the story of Jesus expelling by force merchants and money changers from the Temple:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
— John 2:15–16
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
— Matthew 21:12–13
Was he a terrorist attacking the symbol of Judaism, or a devout who wished to rid it of profane activity? Is not our Capitol a secular Temple? Should we be complacent about profanities that occur therein?
And therein lies the rub. If the J6 rioters wanted to correct a profanity, then they are not insurrectionists and should never have been characterized as such. Prior rioters have been there, in smaller numbers, attacking what they considered to be profanities. But those rioters — e.g., the Kavanaugh protesters — were not treated like the J6 defendants.
Are there J6 defendants who should be incarcerated for their acts? Yes, just as there are persons who attacked the White House and the courthouse in Portland and elsewhere who should be incarcerated; on the same basis and to the same extent. Are there J6 defendants who have been ill-used by the system? It appears that way because of all the malfeasance we have seen out of the DC office of DOJ during the last few years. One suspects, but cannot know, that had trials occurred in the various places where these defendants resided you would get a variety of outcomes rather than the seemingly certain liberty shredder of the DC courts.
If you were in the dock under these circumstances, what wouldn’t you say to suffer the least continuing harm?
Published in General
I think that you need to be careful about this reasoning.
There were many people at the Capitol on J6, and many of them committed crimes, ranging from trespass to serious criminal damage to property. I think that it’s a bad idea to think of the prosecutions as nothing but a “pogrom.” I think that charges should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
The facts against Chansley were bad. I did a post on this. He admitted them. Tucker Carlson apparently had the video that could have confirmed or denied the key facts — which occurred at certain times, but not others — and Carlson showed almost none of that video.
I know that Carlson showed video of Chansley walking around innocuously. He also showed video of Chansley in the Senate chamber, which was in the admitted charges in the plea deal, though Carlson did not show us the part that would have confirmed the inflammatory statements that Chansley admitted making at the Senate dais.
Carlson claimed that the circumstances of Chansley’s entry into the Capitol were “disputed,” which was a false accusation by Carlson, not just because Chansley admitted the facts in his plea — which he did — but also because a different part of Carlson’s own video corroborated those facts.
Isn’t part of a plea deal that you have to mouth the words the Prosecution wants? I see the statements that defendant makes as nothing more than coerced (real or fake) confessions. You have to profess love of Big Brother in order to get you punishment lessened.
@arizonapatriot, I wrote this post as a counterpoint to yours. I hope I have laid out a case why a guilty plea while dispositive of legal guilt is not necessarily correspond to actual guilt. I did not parse out the various charges against Chansley, and my purpose is not to demonstrate that he is legally innocent of any and all charges. Having said that, there are a variety of circumstances still not clear (at least to me) whether Chansley in fact received due process. We may have some interesting legal cases coming up whether there is something like a Brady-violation-by-proxy. While the prosecutor may have complied with Brady by releasing everything in his/her possession, if the Congress (that is, Nancy Pelosi) is complicit in withholding investigative materials from DOJ, or DOJ being uninterested in relevant evidence that they would have to consider/produce to a defense, it is apparent (to me at least) that the net result could be a serious due process concern. And that is before we get to equal protection problems with respect to charging and sentencing. Yes, Tucker said that Chansley’s entry circumstances were “disputed.” Had Chansley not made a plea deal, this would have remained a completely anodyne statement, even if Chansely were convicted. So I don’t make much of that beyond the general theme of Tucker’s polemic.
The whole point of a city not part of the US was to insure non-partisanship of government toward one state. Unfortunately, government and gov’t-oriented corporations have grown so much that DC has effective spilled over onto Virginia and Maryland.
The government, the media, the ruling political party and the DC judiciary were determined to crush the demonstrators both to establish a narrative that makes everyone to the right of Liz Cheney is a potential traitor who must be watched and silenced and to apply an in terrorem beatdown to show all the deplorables who’s boss.
Defense attorneys saw a stacked deck and an unprecedented merciless prosecution effort and had every reason to fear the outcome of a trial. Plea deals seemed the prudent option. Once executed, it takes evidence of hellacious wrongful conduct to re-open. Even introducing proof of complete innocence is uphill.
Only if all that video had been out right away to challenge the narrative would that have helped. Maybe only a little. Even then most of those judges would have been unmoved. And the attitude of the appellate court in re Chansley would likely be He waived his right to challenge the deal and so what if the cops weirdly escorted the defendant around. They were being strategic. And besides, he still had reason to fear what would happen to him in front of a DC judge or DC jury. So what if they squeezed him for an extra couple of years in the plea deal, put him in solitary etc.
Keep in mind that the FBI/DOJ spent an incredible amount of manpower to track down and arrest people in the heartland they knew (and openly admitted)were non-violent and on-site for 10 minutes or less. What difference would video make for those cases?
The screams from the left are about challenging the sacred narrative of how democracy barely survived the MAGA insurrection. The video is a blow in that fight but the J6 defendants are still screwed and I don’t see that changing.
Chansley was sentenced to over three years in prison for trespassing in the capitol and “making inflammatory statements.”
This child rapist got six months.
Justice in Biden’s America.
We should probably penalize Virginia and Maryland by cutting their Congressional representation by half and permit them one Senator each.
Good news about Chansley, (the new Jesus, apparently); he’s due to be released 7/9/23. He’ll have served 30 months of his 41 month sentence. I assume he’s getting some good time credit or something. Good for him.
All in all, I don’t think 2 1/2 years (plus some post release supervision) is too bad for throwing in with a mob, breaking into the building, and forcing Congress to flee their chambers because they were about to take a vote (one they had every right and duty to make by law) that he didn’t like. I mean, that’s a little more than your average trespass, more than a little civil disobedience. It’s juvenile and deranged. But since apparently Christ would have done the same thing…
Especially these days, pleading guilty to… questionable… charges should also be considered from the perspective that they might just be trying to “label” as many of their opponents as possible, considering that, among other things, having a felony conviction could mean no more right to keep and bear arms.
Not if it’s just. And that is what is being debated given what we know and don’t know about a suspected federal role in inciting/facilitating the Capitol breach; the differential treatment of J6 defendants versus all other “mostly peaceful protesters”. I think Scott Adams got it right: If you want a free society you presume innocence of people until proven guilty and you presume guilt of government until proven innocent. We need to know more, a lot more.
This is an appalling statement from beginning to end.
Our entire system of jurisprudence, that collection of ideals for which the Capitol stands in the minds of Americans, depends on defendants having the best defense our country can provide.
Furthermore, overpunishment is a crime in and of itself. “An eye for an eye” meant no more than an eye for an eye.
Making fun of people who are arguing in good faith goes against the standards of civilized decorum. Interesting since it seems to me that decorum is the substance of the moral offense that the J6 protestors are being charged with by the press and the Democrats.
This is the same approach used by those who think the government has done a good job dealing with the Covid Pandemic and the Vaccine.
As someone who still has not delved into the details of what did or did not happen in the national Capitol on January 6, 2021, let me offer a summary of what I think I read in the debate here.
In the United States, we do not permit “confessions” that are obtained using coercive techniques like torture. The debate I read here sounds like raising the question whether the level of charges brought by the prosecution, perhaps coupled with the conditions of pre-trial confinement, amount to a coercive technique. A consequence would be a question whether the “confession” by “horned hat guy” really was a voluntary confession.
Ideally, the judge should be watching for the possibility that the prosecution is overcharging a defendant, and raise questions about the “voluntariness” of a confession that is part of a guilty plea. That may be the case here, but there’s so much odd about the criminal charges surrounding “January 6” that I don’t assume anything.
Many years ago I was called to jury duty for a criminal case involving sex with a minor. The prosecution had charged the defendant with fifteen crimes. But, as I was listening to the summary of the case before jury selection began, I began thinking that it sounded like there was only one or two actions that the defendant was being accused of actually doing, and that the prosecution was layering multiple charges on top of each other, all based on minimal conduct by the defendant, presumably to increase the probability that at least one of the charges would stick. Although the defense rejected me from the jury, I did watch some of the trial. Professional curiosity, as I could tell just from the jury selection process that both lawyers were really good. My trial observations confirmed that each charge brought by the prosecution was pretty weak, and that the prosecution was compensating by throwing many charges at the case. I did not stick around long enough to hear the verdict though.
From the second linked article: “But Sibick is on video apparently assaulting DC Police Officer Michael Fanone and taking his badge and gun. That kind of thing ought to mean serious charges.
What’s disturbing here is twofold. The first issue is that the judge seems to feel that Sibick has some kind of mental condition necessitating psychiatric care.
OK, fine, that happens.
But the second is that whatever his mental condition is, it’s reflected in his political views. One day, Sibick supports Trump and sings the national anthem — and is too sick to be released. Another day, Sibick recants all that — and is suddenly healthy enough to get out of jail, even if he isn’t exactly free.
If Sibick’s mental condition is his political views, and that with the proper treatment he can be cured of them, then we’re witnessing the Sovietization of American justice.“
Maybe I’d better re-think my support for recreating the old, involuntary-committal mental hospitals?!
This has always been a concern of mine. See The Case History of Comrade V. :)
That book was published by a very left leaning publisher.
Remember when the ACLU was defending flag burners? :) :)
How things change.
I’ve only seen rank speculation on this topic of Fed involvement in inciting the riot. There no actual evidence of that. And there are mountains of evidence that these rioters were mostly true believing Trump supporters, with some extremists, who got swept up in their anger and the rhetoric surrounding the election. You can read all about it in the primary documents themselves – this is all out there. It’s not secret.
There was a huge amount of evidence against Chansle – video, pictures, his own statements. The charges were appropriate. They dropped at least one they could have easily proven. That’s not coercion, that’s a guilty defendant taking the likeliest path to the shortest sentence. Harsh sentence – maybe – but the guy was with a mob that tried to intimidate Congress out of taking a vote it has every right to take. A constitutional duty in fact. That’s not normal protest or normal trespass.
The amount of bad info out there in the right leaning internet world is astounding on this. (As there is on left leaning sites as well – but shouldn’t we, at least, be the side dealing with reality?) From Tucker Carlson’s claims about the Chansley video to the Ray Epps stuff to the Dominion software claims, and so on.
All this outrage is being stirred up – and really causing distress in well-meaning people, getting them extremely frustrated at circumstances that don’t exist – by people like Tucker cashing in on it.
Just yesterday I saw a tweet from Mollie Hemmingway decrying the “fact” that Chansley spent several months in jail and then got “41 additional months.” That’s not true – the sentencing entry makes it plain he got credit for all time served against the 41 month sentence. And he’s not even going to serve that – if he stays good, he’ll serve a total of 30 months from the day of his arrest. But of course the tweet generated all sorts of baleful responses from people probably passing on that bad information. In that case, maybe she was honestly mistaken but it’s easily checkable.
I don’t mean to make too much of that one tweet, but it’s the compilation of all of these things that really end up giving people at skewed view. And, yes, I know the left does this too. All the more reason to police our side to make sure at least someone maintains some credibility.
Actually, I think “a little civil disobedience” is an apt description. A non-violent stroll through the capitol building accompanied by police officers strikes me as pretty much the definition of civil disobedience.
I am leaning more and more to feeling like the Congress critters deserved to hear from the people and since they learned nothing …