A federal judge erupted at a Capitol riot defendant as he pleaded guilty on Friday, chastising him for participating in an “attack on our government” and warning him to stay on the “straight and narrow,” in the latest strong reaction from the judiciary to the insurrection.
“You’ve disgraced this country in the eyes of the world, and my inclination is to lock you up,” Judge Reggie B. Walton said to defendant Anthony Mariotto, who pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge moments before. “I found it outrageous that American citizens would do what you did.”
“To see someone destroy, or try to destroy, the Capitol is very troubling to me,” Walton added.
Walton has been outspoken in his disdain for the events of January 6 and has repeatedly said that the riot would undermine his ability to teach “about the greatness of America abroad.”
Walton is one of a chorus of federal judges who have described the riot as an existential danger to American democracy. Last month, one federal judge called the riot an effort “to subvert democracy, to stop the will of the people and replace it with the will of the mob.” He is also one of a growing number of judges who have questioned the Justice Department’s decision to try not to send some defendants to jail, given the gravity of the attack.
Other judges in the same DC District Courthouse as Walton have raised their voices at rioters since arrests started in the days after the attacks, including the chief judge of the court, who harshly spoke about the riot and how National Guard troops and fencing around the Capitol could be seen from the courthouse windows.
The judges presiding over the more than 600 Capitol riot criminal cases will ultimately either usher defendants through jury trials or accept guilty pleas and handle sentencing. The judges have broad authority to sentence as they wish.
So far, a handful of defendants who’ve pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and who have no criminal history have gotten years on probation.
“America was not great on that day. And I’m sure when I go to other jurisdictions to say how they can be like America, they’ll say, ‘Why should I want to be like America when you are all trying to tear down your own country?’ ” Walton shouted during the hearing on Friday.
Walton also expressed concern that the riot set a dangerous precedent for future elections.
“What if the next time around the Democrats lose the presidency, and that person says ‘I won despite what the results say,'” and another mob tries to “tear down the Capitol?” Walton asked. “I guess that would be all right in light of what you did, right?”
“No,” Marrioto responded quietly.
Mariotto, 53, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally demonstrating in the Capitol building, which has become a typical plea deal that the Justice Department has offered to nonviolent rioters. The charge carries a potential maximum sentence of six months in jail, though they’ll likely get less than that, and could even receive probation and avoid incarceration.
According to the agreement read aloud during the hearing, Mariotto admitted to being one of the few rioters who entered the Senate chamber on January 6.
So far, 77 people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Capitol riot. The Justice Department has charged more than 615 people in the attack, according to WEBICNEWS’s latest tally.