A federal judge asked prosecutors why the Justice Department is seeking just $2,000 from Capitol rioters, while US taxpayers are paying more than $500 million for insurrection-related costs

·3 min read
A broken window in the US Capitol.
A window at the US Capitol building broken during the January 6 siege by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Photo by Dmitry Kirsanov\TASS via Getty Images
  • A judge questioned why Capitol riot defendants are paying less in restitution than US taxpayers.

  • Chief District Judge Beryl A. Howell called the DOJ's repayment proposal "a little surprising."

  • Howell has previously expressed concern that lenient deals could encourage repeat offenders.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A federal judge pressed prosecutors for answers on low restitution fees required of Capitol rioters during a hearing on Monday.

Chief US District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington, DC, asked why the Justice Department is seeking only $1.5 million in repayment from Capitol riot defendants while US taxpayers are footing a bill of more than half a billion in costs related to the January 6 pro-Trump attack.

The US Attorney's office is seeking $2,000 in every felony case stemming from the riot, and $500 in each misdemeanor case, which, even if every current defendant pleaded guilty and paid, would still equal less than $1.5 million, according to The Washington Post.

"I'm accustomed to the government being fairly aggressive in terms of fraud when there have been damages that accrue from a criminal act for the restitution amount,'' Howell said in court on Monday, according to the outlet.

"Where we have Congress acting, appropriating all this money due directly to the events of January 6, I have found the damage amount of less than $1.5 million - when all of us American taxpayers are about to foot the bill for close to half a billion dollars - a little surprising," she said.

In June, prosecutors estimated the total amount of damage done to the Capitol grounds during the insurrection at $1,495,326.55, though few additional details were provided. Assistant US Attorney Clayton Henry O'Connor told Howell on Monday that the government would provide an explanation for how it determined the cost of the damage before October, The Post reported.

But legislators have already allotted millions of dollars more than the estimated $1.5 million to cover the costs from the insurrection. On July 29, Congress passed a $2.1 billion security bill that included reimbursements for the National Guard, Capitol Police, and Capitol security improvements, totaling $521 million, $70 million, and $300 million respectively.

Monday's plea hearing was for Glenn Wes Lee Croy, a 46-year-old Colorado man who admitted to entering the Capitol building on January 6. During the hearing, Howell wondered aloud why reimbursements for the National Guard are not included in defendants' restitution fees, according to HuffPost reporter Ryan J. Reilly.

The judge ordered the US Attorney's Office to include an explanation for why costs covering the National Guard's reimbursement are not included in Croy's restitution fees in an upcoming sentencing memo.

Monday wasn't the first time Howell expressed concern that Capitol riot defendants might be receiving light punishments. During a July hearing, Howell once again pressed the Justice Department, questioning the department's decision to offer nonviolent Capitol rioters misdemeanor pleas.

"Does the government have any concern … of the defendant joining a mob, breaking into the Capitol building" in the future, and "terrorizing members of Congress, the vice president, who had to be evacuated," Howell asked prosecutors, according to CNN.

"This could be a circumstance that arises every four years," she said.

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