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Iraq War vet who punched police officers is 100th US Capitol rioter to be sentenced

<i>Brent Stirton/Getty Images</i><br/>Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6
Getty Images
Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Mark Leffingwell, a disabled Iraq War veteran who pleaded guilty to punching two police officers in the head on January 6, 2021, on Thursday became the 100th member of the mob that stormed the US Capitol to be sentenced in federal court, according to CNN records.

Leffingwell was sentenced to six months in jail — a shorter sentence than others convicted of assault in the Capitol breach investigation — because of concerns that he would lose his government pension. He will also pay $2,000 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol.

“It is not patriotism, it is not legitimate political discourse to descend on the nation’s Capitol on behalf of a disappointed former President and disrupt the electoral process,” District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said as she handed down the sentence.

Sentences in the riot cases have ranged from short stints on probation to years in federal prison, underscoring a debate raging among judges, politicians and the public over what justice should look like for such an unprecedented assault on democracy.

As the investigation into the hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol continues, it remains to be seen whether prosecutors will heed the calls from political leaders to charge those who organized or spoke at the January 6 rally, even as the Republican National Committee has downplayed the riot in recent days as an exercise in “legitimate political discourse.”

The Justice Department shows no signs of slowing down its probe into January 6, charging new defendants and striking new plea deals almost every day. So far this year, the department has arrested more than 25 new defendants, and has suggested there are still hundreds to pursue.

Many of the rioters who have been sentenced so far pleaded to low-level misdemeanors, and 61% received stints of probation instead of jail time, CNN found. Those charged with vandalism or violence against police have faced much heavier sentences of up to five years behind bars. In court filings, the Justice Department has said there were at least 1,000 assaults against officers on January 6.

The 100 defendants have also paid more than $124,000 in fines and restitution — an amount that covers only a fraction of the $1.5 million in damages done to the Capitol.

Prosecutors are preparing for the first trial of a January 6 defendant, which is slated to start at the end of February. The government plans on calling Capitol Police, FBI and Secret Service agents as well as the defendant’s own children, elucidating in court filings how they plan to try this case and how others might be handled.

‘Unprecedented’ amount of evidence

In a court filing Thursday, the Department of Justice provided an update on the massive amount of evidence gathered in the Capitol breach.

Prosecutors detail the “unprecedented” amount of video footage taken, interviews conducted and documents gathered as well as some of the hiccups and issues they’ve had in making the evidence available to defense teams.

The government has amassed so many hours of footage from that day — taken from security cameras around the Capitol as well as body cameras from police officers — it would take 102 days to watch.

Prosecutors also note the difficulties involved in getting the available discovery to January 6 defendants currently in the DC jail, which include Covid protocols in the jail, the sheer amount of data and the lack of staff to help handle technical issues.

One of the larger delays the government is facing is in exporting and combing through the hundreds of thousands of FBI records as well as other material such as law-enforcement interviews.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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