A federal appeals court has ruled that a defendant involved in the January 6 riots had been improperly sentenced after admitting to a non-violent misdemeanor. The courts’ decision could potentially impact hundreds of similar cases.
North Carolina’s James Little was given both a prison sentence and probation related to a misdemeanor for parading. Although Little strolled within the Capitol Building on January 6 without any violent actions, he was given a 60-day prison term followed by an extensive three years of probation.
The D.C. appeals court concluded with a 2-1 vote on Friday that probation and imprisonment “may not be imposed as a single sentence” for a minor offense, noting “there are separate options on the menu,” as stated by the Associated Press. Judge Robert Wilkins, nominated by Obama, cast the only opposing vote.
“The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 ‘comprehensively’ outlines the federal sentencing scheme,” the court noted. “Notice that imprisonment plus probation is not an available option. That’s because the list of sentences is disjunctive (‘probation . . . fine . . .or . . . imprisonment’), indicating that the options on the menu are alternatives that cannot be combined,” the court added.
The recent verdict might influence the cases of about 80 defendants who were handed “split sentences”, which combine jail time with probation for minor crimes. Although many of these individuals have completed their incarceration, the decision is expected to shape upcoming sentences.
In a previous decision, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth mentioned that while a jail term could address the retribution aspect, only a prolonged probation period can “ensure that Little will not become an active participant in another riot.”
There is potential for the Department of Justice to challenge the 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.”
The final determination could impact the sentences of numerous January 6 defendants who have been subject to aggressive prosecution and overcharging by U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves. A substantial number of January 6 defendants have either been found guilty or admitted to minor infractions like picketing or parading and received stringent sentences.
Graves continues to pursue individuals from the January 6 incident, even though the DOJ dropped all charges against far-left activists responsible for the J20 riots at former President Donald Trump’s inauguration and the summer 2020 riots near the White House, where 50 secret service agents were injured while the president was in a “terror attack” bunker.
Over 1,000 individuals have been indicted on federal charges in connection to the Jan. 6 riot. Of these, over 600 have either admitted guilt or been found guilty in trials overseen by juries or judges. Approximately 600 have received their sentences, with a majority facing prison terms ranging from three days to 18 years.