The Justice Department said Monday that people “lionizing” the Jan. 6 rioters are heightening the risk of future political violence.
“Indeed, the risk of future violence is fueled by a segment of the population that seems intent on lionizing the January 6 rioters and treating them as political prisoners, heroes, or martyrs instead of what they are: criminals,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Roman wrote in a court filing, “many of whom committed extremely serious crimes of violence, and all of whom attacked the democratic values which all of us should share.”
The statement came as part of a 28-page argument supporting the pretrial detention of Cody Mattice, a defendant charged with ripping down metal barricades and assaulting police during the attack on the Capitol.
It’s an indirect broadside at Republicans who have sought to whitewash the violence committed by supporters of former President Donald Trump during the assault on the Capitol. Trump himself has argued alternately that his supporters were “hugging and kissing” police — rather than committing the approximately 1,000 assaults prosecutors say occurred — and has baselessly claimed that left-wing agitators caused the violence.
Trump has taken up the cause of Ashli Babbitt, the Jan. 6 rioter shot dead by a Capitol Police officer as she sought to breach the House chamber. And other Republicans in Congress have embraced claims that the Jan. 6 defendants are “political prisoners,” arguing without evidence that the Justice Department has treated them harshly because of their politics, rather than their conduct.
“Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest,” Trump said in a statement last month.
DOJ’s suggestion that this rhetoric could fuel additional violence is the most directly it has taken on these claims to date.
Romano’s filing was in response to the decision of a magistrate judge in New York who rejected prosecutors’ efforts to detain Mattice, arguing that the threat he posed to the community was no longer relevant, since the transfer of power to the Biden administration had already occurred. To detain a defendant before trial, prosecutors must show that a defendant presents an ongoing danger to society — not just a previous one.
But DOJ said the magistrate judge missed the point.
“The threat of politically motivated violence is not gone,” Romano wrote. “Political rallies, voting days, and certifications of votes are not everyday events, but they will happen again, and so too might the violence that our country witnessed on January 6, 2021.”
Mattice, who is from Rochester, N.Y., was charged alongside co-defendant James Mault, who was ordered detained by a North Carolina magistrate judge for his own actions at the Capitol. The pair traveled to Washington together in advance of Jan. 6
Prosecutors say Mattice advanced toward police lines at about 4 p.m., after officers had retreated into a tunnel at the Capitol’s western front, the site of the most intense violence of the day. There, photos and videos show Mattice climbing onto the tunnel archway and aiming a chemical spray at police officers.
Mattice told investigators he was actually spraying other rioters to keep them away from police, a claim prosecutors say is “transparently false.”
Prosecutors recovered texts between Mattice and Mault in which they discussed coming to D.C. armed for violence. At 3:23 p.m. on Jan. 6, Mattice texted a friend that “me and james got everyone to push through the police, me and james fought through the police line on the door step of Capitol hill lmao.” Minutes later, he texted his aunt that he and Mault “fought off like 4 or 5 cops and stand f------ victorious.”
“Awesomeness,” his aunt replied.
Afterward, prosecutors say Mattice celebrated his role in the attack.
“it was dope me and james had everyone hyped bro,” he said in a text message obtained by prosecutors, “even the proud boys were thanking us, legit bro it feels like a f----- movie.”