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US Capitol rioters’ tears, remorse don’t spare them from stiff jail sentences

Florida business owner Robert Palmer cheered on the violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 before he joined the fray. Screaming obscenities, he hurled a wooden plank and a fire extinguisher at police officers trying to ward off the mob.

Nearly a year later, Palmer fought back tears when he faced the federal judge who sentenced him to more than five years in prison. He said he was “horrified, absolutely devastated” by what he had done.

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“I’m just so ashamed that I was a part of that,” Palmer told US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Dec. 17 before she gave him the longest prison term for any rioter so far.

Judges are hearing tearful expressions of remorse — and a litany of excuses — from rioters paying a price for joining the Jan. 6 insurrection, even as others try to play down the deadly attack on a seat of American democracy.

The Justice Department’s investigation of the riot has now entered the punishment phase. So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes. They include a company CEO, an architect, a retired Air Force colonel, a gym owner, a former Houston police officer and a University of Kentucky student. Many rioters have said they lost jobs and friends after their mob of Donald Trump loyalists disrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

Fifty-six of the 71 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. Most of them were sentenced to home confinement or jail terms measured in weeks or months, according to an Associated Press tally of every sentencing. But rioters who assaulted police officers have gotten years behind bars.

With hundreds of people charged, the Justice Department has taken heat for not coming down harder on some rioters, and it has failed to charge anyone with sedition or treason despite hints early on in the investigation.

But lower-level cases tend to be easier to prosecute and typically get resolved before more complex ones.
At least 165 people have pleaded guilty so far, mostly to crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of six months. There are dozens of cases involving more serious offenses still moving through the system. More than 220 people have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement officers at the Capitol, according to the Justice Department.

Since November, three of them have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from more than three years to just over five years.

The District of Columbia federal court is overloaded with Jan. 6 cases. More than 700 people have been charged so far and the FBI is still looking for more. Among the most serious charges are against far-right extremist group members accused of plotting attacks to obstruct Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election. Their cases haven’t yet gone to trial.

The rioters’ refrains before the judges are often the same: They were caught up in the moment or just following the crowd into the Capitol. They didn’t see any violence or vandalism. They thought police were letting them enter the building. They insist they went there to peacefully protest.

Their excuses often implode in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Thousands of hours of videos from surveillance cameras, mobile phones and police body cameras captured them reveling in the mayhem. Many boasted about their crimes on social media in the days after the deadly attack.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said then-President Trump’s incendiary speech on Jan. 6 “stoked the flames of fear and discontent.” But she told Russell James Peterson, a rioter from Pennsylvania, that he “walked there on his own two feet” and must bear responsibility for his own actions.

“No one was swept away to the Capitol. No one was carried. The rioters were adults,” Jackson said before sentencing Peterson to 30 days’ imprisonment.

Eighteen judges, including four nominated by Trump, have sentenced the 71 rioters. Thirty-one defendants have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment or to jail time already served, including 22 who received sentences of three months or less, according to the AP tally. An additional 18 defendants have been sentenced to home confinement. The remaining 22 have gotten probation without house arrest.

A seemingly genuine display of contrition before or during a sentencing hearing can help a rioter avoid a jail cell. The judges often cite remorse as a key factor in deciding sentences.

But Chutkan told Palmer that she couldn’t tell if his remorse was genuine.
“I can’t look into your heart or your mind,” the judge said. “The way you conduct your life after this case is going to speak volumes about whether you are truly remorseful.”

Anna Morgan-Lloyd, the first rioter to be sentenced, told Senior Judge Royce Lamberth in June that she was ashamed of the “savage display of violence” at the Capitol. A day later, however, the Indiana woman told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that people were “very polite” during the riot, that she saw “relaxed” police officers chatting with rioters and that she didn’t believe the Jan. 6 attack was an insurrection.

Her inconsistency didn’t escape Lamberth’s notice. In a footnote to an order in another case, the judge said his “hopes have been recently dashed” when Morgan-Lloyd’s Fox interview “directly conflicted with the contrite statements that she made” to him.

Dona Sue Bissey ‘s case is one of only six in which prosecutors agreed to recommend probation without home detention. But instead, Chutkan sentenced her to 14 days in jail. The judge questioned whether Bissey, 53, of Indiana, truly was remorseful because she bragged about her participation in the riot.

“There must be consequences for taking part, even a small part, in a mass attempt to stop the certification of the presidential election and prevent the transfer of power,” said Chutkan, who was nominated by President Barack Obama.

All eight of the Jan. 6 defendants sentenced by Chutkan have received jail or prison terms. In all but one of those cases, the sentence that she handed down was stricter than prosecutors’ recommendation.
In contrast, all four rioters sentenced by Chief Judge Beryl Howell received three months of home detention after prosecutors recommended jail terms. Howell, also an Obama nominee, questioned the Justice Department’s “muddled approach” in resolving cases with misdemeanor pleas despite using “scorching strong language” to describe rioters’ actions.

She said it was “almost schizophrenic in some ways” for prosecutors to recommend a three-month jail sentence for a Tennessee man, Jack Jesse Griffith, in a court filing that referred to rioters as “those who trespassed.”

“No wonder parts of the public in the United States are confused about whether what happened on January 6th at the Capitol was simply a petty offense of trespassing with some disorderliness or shocking criminal conduct that represented a grave threat to our democratic norms,” Howell said during Griffith’s Oct. 28 sentencing, according to a transcript.

The judge who sentenced Boyd Camper to 60 days’ imprisonment for a misdemeanor offense said the Montana man’s presence in the mob “helped create the momentum for violence” and provided safety for violent rioters even though he personally didn’t attack law enforcement officers.

“Violence is an unacceptable way to resolve political differences,” Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly told Camper.

Some judges have rejected prosecutors’ recommendations for prison sentences. Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump nominee, said it is “almost unheard of” for first-time offenders to get jail time for nonviolent misdemeanors. Howell questioned why a short jail term for riot defendant Glen Wes Lee Croy, without a longer term of court supervision, would be the best way to ensure that the Colorado man “stays on a law-abiding path.”

Many other prominent cases remain unresolved. Dozens of people linked to extremist groups have been charged with conspiring to carry out coordinated attacks on the Capitol, including more than 20 defendants tied to the anti-government Oath Keepers and at least 16 connected to the far-right Proud Boys.

At least five people associated with the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty. At least one Proud Boys member has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. None of them has been sentenced yet.

Approximately 20 trials are scheduled in 2022. Meanwhile, judges are plowing through daily dockets of guilty pleas and sentencings.

Anthony Mariotto, a Florida man who was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, said he “got caught up in the moment” but knows he broke the law by entering the Capitol.

“I was hoping that they would just pause the election,” Mariotto said during his December sentencing. “I wish Joe Biden, President Biden, would have won by billions of votes. None of this would have happened.”

Judge Reggie Walton dryly replied, “He won by 7 million.”

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Roche develops monkeypox PCR tests

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said Wednesday it had come up with PCR tests that can detect monkeypox, as the virus spreads outside endemic countries.

Roche and its subsidiary TIB Molbiol have developed three test kits which are for use by researchers in most countries worldwide, the Basel-based firm said.

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The first kit detects viruses in the wider orthopoxvirus group. The second detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third detects both simultaneously.

“Roche has very quickly developed a new suite of tests that detect the monkeypox virus and aid in following its epidemiologic spread,” said diagnostics chief Thomas Schinecker.

“Diagnostic tools are crucial for responding to and ultimately controlling emerging public health challenges as they advance response measures such as tracing efforts and treatment strategies.”

Roche said the research test kits could assess the spread of the virus and help monitor the potential impact of treatments, vaccines and public health measures.

The World Health Organization said that as of May 22, more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases had been officially reported to the UN health agency from 16 countries outside endemic nations in west and central Africa.

The WHO says a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the “preferred laboratory test given its accuracy and sensitivity”. For this, optimal samples are from skin lesions and dry crusts.

It says PCR blood tests are usually inconclusive and should not be routinely collected from patients.

The WHO says antigen and antibody detection methods do not distinguish between orthopoxviruses.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said Wednesday that countries had been sharing information that was allowing the agency to better understand the spread of monkeypox.

He said its origins at the animal-human interface had not been properly controlled, “and we’re paying a price now in monkeypox for an unmanaged, endemic disease which we do not fully understand.”

“We have not put in place preventive measures and we’re now dealing with a multi-country event directly related to our inability, or unwillingness, to manage those risks earlier,” he said.

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Moscow says Mariupol port reopened after demining

Russia said Wednesday that the port of the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol has reopened after Moscow’s troops took control of the city on the Azov Sea.
Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a press briefing that the port has “started functioning normally” after demining.
The strategic port city in southeast Ukraine fell to Moscow recently after a devastating siege.
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Mariupol’s new Moscow-appointed city chief, Konstantin Ivashchenko, said on Russian television that a ship carrying around 3,000 tons of metal products will soon depart from the port to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Ivashchenko said that “demining is taking place in the city, particularly in the commercial sea port and its waters.”
The port has taken on 4,000 workers, Ivashchenko said.
“Practically all the rubble has been removed, the rubbish has been removed, and what’s most important, the port is preparing to ship the first cargo in liberated Mariupol. The shipment will leave in the next few days,” Ivashchenko said.
He added that the port could also be used to receive construction materials to rebuild the city.
The Russian army said Tuesday that it had demined an area measuring 1.5 million square meters in the port, with sappers working in the docks and on ships moored there.
The United Nations has urged Russian authorities to release grain stuck in Ukrainian ports to avert global food shortages.
Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko said earlier Wednesday Moscow was acting in “cooperation with the UN” and is prepared to escort vessels to safety if Ukrainian forces clear mines from around their ports.
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Blasts in Kabul mosque, north Afghanistan, kill at least 14

A series of explosions shook Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Taliban said, including a blast inside a mosque in the capital of Kabul that killed at least five worshippers and three bombings of minivans in the country’s north that killed nine passengers.
The Kabul Emergency Hospital said it received 22 victims of the mosque bombing, including five dead. There were no further details on the blast that struck the Hazrat Zakaria Mosque in the city’s central Police District 4, according to Khalid Zadran, a Taliban police spokesman in Kabul.
“The blast took place while people were inside the mosque for the evening prayers,” Zadran said, adding that they were waiting for an update.
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The minivans were targeted in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif after explosive devices were placed inside the vehicles, according to Mohammad Asif Waziri, a Taliban-appointed spokesman in Balkh province. He said the explosions killed nine and wounded 15.
All the victims in Mazar-e-Sharif were from the country’s minority Shia Muslims, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to give details to the media.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosions, but they had the hallmarks of the regional affiliate of ISIS, known as Islamic State in Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
The ISIS affiliate, which has been operating in Afghanistan since 2014, is seen as the greatest security challenge facing the country’s new Taliban rulers. Following their takeover when they seized power in Kabul and elsewhere in the country last August, the Taliban have launched a sweeping crackdown against the ISIS headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
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