Saturday, July 24, 2021

In Radical Affront To Civil Liberties, The Government Is Branding Non-Violent Jan. 6 Defendants 'Terrorists'

By Michael Tracey - July 24, 2021 at 01:49PM

'Terrorist' Paul Hodgkins

This week, the first felony sentence was handed down in relation to what’s popularly called the “insurrection” of January 6, 2021. Though he only pleaded guilty to a single count of “obstruction of an official proceeding,” defendant Paul Hodgkins — whose criminal act entailed milling around the Senate chamber for approximately 15 minutes — nonetheless found himself branded a “terrorist” in open court by the US Government. Per prosecutors’ own admission, Hodgkins committed no acts of physical violence, and wielded no weapons. He was also never formally accused of any “terrorist” offenses, at least in a way that the Government would actually have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Regardless, prosecutors have now introduced a theory in which it’s alleged that Hodgkins and other non-violent Jan. 6 defendants were operating within a supposed “context” of terrorism — and it’s this “context” that they’re citing to argue for more severe punishment.

Ultimately, Hodgkins was sentenced to eight months in prison — a long time to be confined to a cage, of course, but perhaps not the length of incarceration one would typically associate with a deadly act of “terrorism.” So there’s something incongruous about this newly concocted terrorism-designation approach. Here is how Special Assistant US Attorney Mona Sedky rolled out her new “terrorism” theory at Hodgkins’ sentencing hearing on July 19:

Read that carefully. The Government admits that Hodgkins’ actual conduct does not meet any legally cognizable definition of “terrorism,” but nonetheless argues that Hodgkins was “part” of a domestic terrorism event — i.e., partook in the commission of a terrorist attack — and is therefore effectively a terrorist! They’re more or less saying, “We can’t meet the legal burden to actually prove that he’s guilty of terrorism, so we’re just going to kind of vaguely assert as much in this slippery, unfalsifiable way.” Expanding the applicability of “terrorism” in such a manner is self-evidently menacing to civil liberties — it’s essentially the Government claiming the ability to accuse you of terrorism without ever having to clear the due process hurdles of legally establishing your guilt. Sedky added:
“Framing”? “Context”? What? When did “domestic terrorism” become some kind of interpretive literary principle? These are weasel-words, the vagueness of which enable the Government to level one of the most extraordinary accusations it could possibly level against a citizen — that he is a terrorist — without having to subject that designation to meaningfully adversarial scrutiny. It’s all the more galling, because again, Hodgkins was not even alleged to have committed any physical violence. “The Government nonetheless recognizes that Hodgkins did not personally engage in or espouse violence or property destruction,” wrote Sedky in a sentencing memo. But in the “context” of Jan. 6 — the hyper-charged, seismically hyperbolic political climate that these proceedings are taking place within — the “symbolism” of the affair has taken primacy.

Judge Randolph D. Moss of the DC District Court (a Democratic appointee, if anyone’s keeping score) was particularly aggrieved that Hodgkins had carried a “TRUMP 2020” flag when he meandered onto the Senate floor, as opposed to an American flag. Moss opined that this choice of flags was evidence of Hodgkins “declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the nation.” That’s quite a feat of mind-reading — who knew that sporting a presidential candidate’s campaign paraphernalia presumptively indicates “disloyalty” to the US? But the Judge confessed to being extremely fixated on “the symbolism” of Hodgkins’ act, which allegedly “captured the threat to democracy that we all witnessed that day.” As though Hodgkins banded together with the shirtless yodeling Shaman guy to land a death blow against “democracy” — whatever that means — by temporarily interrupting a ceremonial legislative session.

It gets creepier. While the Government conceded that Hodgkins engaged in no violent conduct, wielded no weapons, and caused no physical injury, they turned around and invented a new type of “injury” he allegedly inflicted in order to demand a harsher prison sentence. This “injury” conceived by the Government appears to be a form of metaphysical injury, or perhaps some bizarre political injury? Sedky again:
“Imperiling democracy”? Given the laughable non-specificity of what the hell it even means to “imperil democracy,” it shouldn’t take too much imagination to envision how widely this new “injury” criteria could be applied — as dictated by the whims of whatever prosecutor wants to appoint themselves a noble Democracy Defender. Do leftists, who’ve been almost entirely silent about the extremely foreboding implications of the Jan. 6 prosecutions, really not understand how easily the same logic could be marshalled against their own activist comrades?

Fair use excerpt. Read the rest here.



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