Judge in Trump Case Says ‘Hostages’ Label for Jailed Jan. 6 Defendants Is Wrong

Judge in Trump Case Says ‘Hostages’ Label for Jailed Jan. 6 Defendants Is Wrong
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in an undated photo. (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts via AP)

The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s election interference case on April 10 said that describing defendants being held on charges related to the U.S. Capitol riot as hostages is wrong.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said that people involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol who remain jailed in Washington don’t deserve to be called hostages or heroes.

“They’re being kept there because they are dangerous people,” Judge Chutkan said during a sentencing hearing for Antony Vo, an Indiana man convicted of entering the Capitol with his mother.

President Trump has increasingly shown support for Jan. 6 defendants, including playing recordings of defendants in jail singing the national anthem. In 2023, he spoke at a fundraiser benefiting Jan. 6 defendants and said he’d contribute. “There have been few people that have been treated in the history of our country like the people that you love, like the people that have gone through so much,” he said at the time.

Later that year, he described jailed defendants as “hostages, not prisoners.” In March, he said one of his first acts in office, if he wins the 2024 election, would be “free[ing] the January 6 hostages being wrongfully imprisoned!” And more recently, he said a 71-year-old grandma who was sentenced to prison had become “one of Joe Biden’s J6 hostages.”

Some people have criticized the characterization, including White House officials. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has called the description “grotesque and offensive” to people being held hostage. Others, though, have said they share President Trump’s views about the treatment of defendants, some of whom have been held pending trial for years.

“I have concerns about the treatment of January 6th hostages,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said earlier this year on NBC. “We have a role in Congress of oversight over our treatments of prisoners. And I believe that we’re seeing the weaponization of the federal government against not just President Trump, but we’re seeing it against conservatives.”

Asked what he would say to critics who say Jan. 6 defendants shouldn’t be defended, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy told a forum this week that people were “defending the due process.”

“Why are they sitting in jail and not having the ability to go to court?” he added later.

Several dozen people are being held in a Washington jail as they await trial or sentencing, including some charged with assaulting law enforcement officers. Many have expressed support for President Trump.

Mr. Vo, 31, was not held after he was convicted in September 2023 of four misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, even though Judge Chutkan found he failed to comply with pre-trial release conditions. Mr. Vo, she said, visited the so-called Freedom Corner outside the Washington jail, where people gather nightly for a vigil for those held, even though he was ordered not to be in Washington outside of court business.

Judge Chutkan told Mr. Vo that he was fortunate she didn’t order him jailed after his conviction. She said he has consistently refused to express remorse or accept responsibility for his conduct on Jan. 6.

She sentenced Mr. Vo to nine months of imprisonment followed by one year of supervised release, as well as a $1,000 fine.

Defense attorneys had requested no prison time, noting that Mr. Vo was not accused of carrying out any violence and that he left the Capitol within 30 minutes of entering. Prosecutors sought 11 months of imprisonment, noting statements that indicate a lack of remorse, including his self-description on social media of being a “J6 wrongful convict” and a post after the trial that said, “there was zero jury of peers and 100% a kangaroo court.”

Mr. Vo said Wednesday he was “sorry for everything” and should not have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Judge Chutkan didn’t mention President Trump’s name during the sentencing hearing.

The former president’s trial in Washington for the election interference case was scheduled to start on March 4, but Judge Chutkan agreed to place the case on hold as courts consider his argument that he is immune from prosecution. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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