A federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump less than a year after he worked on Trump’s transition team has emerged as the lightest sentencer of defendants who took part in the January 6 Capitol riot.
Judge Trevor McFadden has repeatedly criticized the U. S. Justice Department (DOJ) and individual prosecutors for sentencing recommendations he has termed “disproportionate.” And he has backed up those words with sentences well below those sought by prosecutors.
To date, only two Capitol riot defendants who have gone to trial have had their cases decided by a judge, CBS reports. And while no jury has yet acquitted a riot defendant – including one before McFadden – the judge gave a full victory to one and a partial win to the other.
On April 6, McFadden issued the first outright acquittal of a Capitol riot defendant after a two-day bench trial, Politico reported. New Mexico engineer Matthew Martin had claimed that he thought the police had allowed him into an entrance near the Capitol Rotunda during the riot.
“McFadden said that, based on video of the scene, that assertion was at least “plausible” and that prosecutors failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. “People were streaming by, and the officers made no attempt to stop the people,” McFadden said.
Prosecutors had pointed out “that broken windows and blaring alarms should have alerted Martin that he did not have permission to enter,” the reporting noted. But McFadden acquitted Martin on all four misdemeanors counts he faced.
In the other case, just two weeks before Martin’s acquittal, the judge convicted Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin on a trespassing charge, while acquitting him on a more serious count of disorderly conduct. Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, said “I wear January 6 as a badge of honor” after his conviction.
Griffin avoided the disorderly conduct charges despite being accused by the FBI of using a bullhorn to address the crowd while in a restricted area at the U.S. Capitol. Griffin told an Inside Edition reporter at the scene that “We are not going to get our election stolen from us from China…we are not going to allow it. There will never be a Biden presidency.” Griffin is expected to be sentenced next week by McFadden.
It has been widely reported that McFadden was appointed by Trump. But a summary from McFadden’s 2017 confirmation proceedings shows that his connection to the former president was far closer than reported.
Here’s an exchange between Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and McFadden:
Q. “According to your Senate Judiciary Questionnaire, you “volunteered as a vetter for President Trump’s transition team” both before and after Election Day in November. Please say more about what your work on the transition team involved.
A. I reviewed public-source information regarding potential political appointees to the Executive Branch for evidence that may disqualify them or reflect poorly on the President should they be appointed to office.”
McFadden, who also stated on the questionnaire that he had been a member of the Federalist Society since 2003, was asked about these words on that group’s website: “Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society.”
His response: “I don’t know what was meant by that statement.” So, it’s not surprising that McFadden appears kinder to defendants from Trump’s insurrection than other judges, even those also nominated by Trump.
In March, McFadden rejected prosecutors’ recommendation of 75 days in jail for high-profile MAGA rioter Jenny Cudd, a florist and former mayoral candidate from Midland, Texas. Instead, McFadden slapped her on the wrist with two months’ probation and a $5,000 fine.
As reported by Raw Story, Cudd became infamous for posting incriminating evidence against herself on Facebook -- boasting about breaking into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"We did break down the office door and somebody stole her gavel and took picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera, and that was on Fox News," Cudd bragged. She also told television station CBS 7 that “she was proud of what she did and that she'd do it again.”
Cudd’s case had garnered national attention less than one month after the January 6 riot when McFadden granted her request to vacation in Cancun while awaiting trial. The trip had been described as a prepaid “work-related bonding retreat.”
In sentencing Cudd, McFadden charged that “the government’s sentencing recommendation here is just so disproportionate to other sentences for people who have engaged in similar conduct,” McFadden said, according to the Washington Post. “I know that the government believes that the January 6 cases are sui generis” — or one of a kind — “and therefore can’t be compared to other cases. But I don’t agree,”
“It does feel like the government has had two standards here, and I can’t abide by that,” McFadden said. The judge added that before Jan. 6, 2021, he could not remember seeing a nonviolent, first-time misdemeanant “sentenced to serious jail time … regardless of their race, gender or political affiliation.”
Those comments echoed what McFadden has been saying since at least last fall, in agreement with MAGA talking points. He has repeatedly compared January 6 cases to those involving defendants arrested after protests over the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
McFadden also let Capitol riot defendant Danielle Doyle of Oklahoma off with probation on October 1, rejecting prosecutors’ request for a stiffer sentence. Although McFadden noted that Doyle’s behavior was not excusable and a “national embarrassment,” he directed more ire toward the DOJ than the defendant.
“As McFadden sentenced Doyle, he said he thought she was “acting like all those looters and rioters last year. That’s because looters and rioters decided the law did not apply to them,” the Associated Press reported. He likened it to the police brutality protests following the death of George Floyd last year that made “us all feel less safe.”
The AP added, “McFadden questioned why federal prosecutors had not brought more cases against those accused in 2020 summertime protests, reading out statistics on riot cases in the nation’s capital that were not prosecuted.
“I think the U.S. attorney would have more credibility if it was even-handed in its concern about riots and mobs in this city,” McFadden said.
The AP noted it had analyzed more than 300 arrests stemming from the protests incited by Floyd’s murder. The research showed that many leftist rioters had received substantial sentences, rebutting the argument that pro-Trump defendants were treated more harshly than Black Lives Matter protesters.”
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