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No bail and Mexican getaways: How the Feds are going lenient on the insurrectionists as Trump's second impeachment trial begins

Former President Donald Trump's historic second impeachment trial is set to begin this week for inciting the January 6 Capitol Hill insurrection. Since then federal authorities have arrested about 200 individuals for their role in the putsch that claimed five lives. The Department of Justice labeled the event "an intolerable attack on a fundamental institution of our democracy" and vowed it will "spare no resources in investigating and holding those accountable those responsible."

But the government appears to be treating many arrestees with kid gloves. Some have been spared pretrial detention despite being charged with assaulting federal police officers, with one killed and 140 reportedly injured. The Department of Justice and FBI are debating not charging some rioters. Others are being allowed to vacation in tropical beach resorts, being fed special diets, or are walking free despite violent pasts and ties to extremists.

The Raw Story has rounded up some of the most flagrant cases of leniency, which serve as a warning that if the feds go easy on extremists who tried to overthrow the government, then that is likely to embolden more political violent in the future.

Charged with five offenses for her role in the deadly insurrection, Texas resident Jenny Cudd has been given permission to go on a four-day getaway to Cancun, Mexico. Cudd livestreamed as she strode through the Capitol of January 6 wearing a Trump flag like a cape, crowing, "We did break down Nancy Pelosi's office door." She bragged on Facebook, "Fuck yes, I am proud of my actions. I fucking charged the Capitol today with patriots." Two days later, Cudd told an NBC news affiliate, "I would absolutely do it again." Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden approved her request to travel to the Caribbean resort starting February 18. He said "there was no evidence she was a flight risk or posed a danger to others." Back in Cudd's hometown of Midland, one pro-mask advocate told the Washington Post that she feared for her safety as Cudd targeted "those who supported mask ordinances and openly discussed buying ammunition and a coming 'revolution.'"

Jacob Anthony Chansley, the infamous "Q Shaman" who invaded the Capitol wearing a coyote-skin and buffalo-horn headdress was transferred to a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, solely to meet his demands for organic food. His attorney claimed organic food is part of his "shamanic belief system and way of life." Chansley carried a metal-tipped spear into the Senate and sported Nordic tattoos on his bare torso, including a valknut, composed of three interlocking triangles, that is associated with white supremacists. Prosecutors said, "Chansley is an active participant in—and has made himself the most prominent symbol of—a violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government." Meanwhile last summer ICE forced several dozen Muslims, members of an actual religion, imprisoned in Florida to accept meals with pork.

Among Republican lawmakers from at least seven states who joined Trump's putsch was Derrick Evans, who had been sworn into the West Virginia House of Delegates weeks earlier. Livestreaming while invading the Capitol, he yelled, "We're in, we're in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol." Evans, whose charges include violent entry and disorderly conduct, built his political brand on filming himself while screaming at women and people of color. Prosecutors did not ask for Evans detention in connection with the insurrection and he was freed. While Evans resigned his seat, his arrest did not come as a surprise for those he harassed for years. Staff at a women's health clinic said Evans would scream at them, "You are pathetic! You are a witch! You are a baby killer!", while indicating he was armed with a gun.

To join Trump's mob, Texas real-estate agent Jenna Ryan hopped a private jet to Washington. The morning of the coup, Ryan posted a video to Facebook saying, "We're gonna go down and storm the Capitol. … This is a prelude going to war." She doubled-down afterwards, saying of the deaths in the Capitol, "we don't care because our freedom is more important to us than our lives." Ryan was released shortly after being arrested and told the media, "I think we all deserve a pardon."

Riley June Williams was charged with helping to steal a laptop from Nancy Pelosi's office and plotting to sell it to Russian intelligence services. Williams, who was caught on video directing other rioters towards Pelosi's office, was released into her mother's custody in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on January 21. Prosecutors argued initially for her continued detainment as a flight risk, noting that after the putsch, she changed her phone number, deleted all her social media accounts, and fled her home saying "she would be gone for a couple of weeks."

Rendall Brock, Jr., a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, was pictured on the floor of the U.S. Senate in a combat helmet, tactical gear, and carrying zip ties. U.S. prosecutors asked for detention, saying "his prior experience and training make him all the more dangerous. They claimed of Brock, "He means to take hostages. He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government." Family and friends added that "he's gotten extreme" and "they believed white-supremacist views may have contributed to his motivations." Brock was freed by Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton on January 15.

At least six members of the "violent neo-fascist gang the Proud Boys" have been indicted, including leader Joseph Biggs, who is also a former associate of conspiracist Alex Jones. The Department of Justice has hinted in filings against the Proud Boys of evidence of a coordinated attack, which could lead to seditious conspiracy or RICO charges typically used against the mafia. Biggs is known for using social media to broadcast violent threats against his opponents, which earned him a visit from the FBI two years ago, while The Raw Story described in a 2018 investigation the links between the Proud Boys and violent neo-Nazis. Despite this, federal prosecutors let Biggs off with a $25,000 unsecured bond. At the same time, prosecutors pointed to the Proud Boys as a reason to detain Ethan Nordean, a well-known street brawler who appears frequently with Biggs in public. The feds convinced a judge to deny Nordean bail saying he "was part of the group that helped plan how the Proud Boys would act during the riot."

Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller can now add Capitol Hill insurrectionist to his resume. In recent years, Keller's social media "included a stream of pro-Trump messaging" and he participated in a previous protest promoting the falsehood Trump won the 2020 election. Keller has been charged with three offenses and was freed without bail.

Robert Packer, who donned a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt for the storming of the Capitol, was released on personal recognizance. Packer has a criminal history including a felony conviction for forgery and is a "long-time extremist" according to those who know him.

Adam Johnson who was pictured smiling and waving while pilfering a podium belonging to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was freed on a $25,000 bond.

Some of the most notorious individuals involved in the failed coup were ordered free or allowed to post bond before other judges stepped in to keep them detained.

Beverly Hill salon owner Gina Bisignano readily identified herself as mascara-stained tears ran down her face during the insurrection. As the mob broke into the Capitol Bisignano yelled through a bullhorn, "Everybody, we need gas masks. We need weapons. We need strong angry patriots." One of three Beverly Hills residents arrested for their role in the coup, Bisignano was indicted on seven counts including engaging in physical violence and obstructing an official proceeding, which carries a 20-year sentence. She was freed on $170,000 bail before being taken back into custody days later.

Richard Barnett was granted pretrial release before being overruled by a U.S. district judge. He was photographed with feet on Pelosi's desk and is accused of stealing mail from her office. The judge who ordered Barnett's release said, "He appears to be a law abiding citizen." Leading up to the failed Capitol Hill coup, Barnett called himself a white nationalist, purchased a stun gun, pepper spray, and walkie-talkies, and wrote on Facebook, "I'm not afraid to go out … kicking and screaming, covered in someone else's blood."

QAnon supporter Douglas Jensen who chased Capitol Hill police officer Eugene Goodman through the Senate building was set to be freed before another judge ordered his continued detention. Goodman was hailed as a hero for leading the mob away from the open Senate chambers while Jensen's past achievements include domestic assault, drunk driving, theft, and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.

One commentator wrote of the Mexican-bound Jenny Cudd that her case "proves white privilege defines our justice system." If that white privilege allows people who tried to overturn a legitimate election to escape justice, then the result will be the rise of a smarter and more competent Trump down the road.

Years of impunity for right-wing extremists began with the Bundys and led to the failed Capitol Hill coup

The Raw Story went to the Bundy occupation five years ago and warned the impunity would "blaze into another firestorm." That's exactly what happened on the US Capitol -- and could happen again.

In January 2016 a heavily armed militia led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. For 41 days the two brothers used it as a base to carry out their fantasy of sparking a revolt against the U.S. government. They failed, but the impunity the Bundys enjoyed — before, during, and after their insurrection — proved to be a model and a source of inspiration for Trump's self-coup on January 6.

The lesson of the Bundy occupation was white conservatives with guns could threaten violence to further their political goals and face minimal consequences. That led to the deadly unrest of the Trump era: Charlottesville, Portland, Proud Boys, and Atomwaffen. Despite this, conservative white extremists were still able to incite violence. Before January 6, there were so many attacks on state capitols one expert on the extreme right asked, "how many times do they have to storm a capitol before it's taken seriously?"

Armed hordes storming the Capitol finally shocked the feds into action, and they have arrested 155 insurrectionists and counting. But the impunity remains. Just as the government went easy on the Bundys despite their blatant lawlessness, the government may go easy on a mob that wanted to put "heads on pikes" and came within a minute of carrying out their wish to "Hang Mike Pence."

Taking a bite out of violent white nationalism will fall to the incoming Biden administration. The last thing needed is new domestic terrorism laws that "will inevitably be used … against Black and brown people," says the ACLU. The government has plenty of powers to prosecute the extremists. While that won't end the threat of far-right terrorism, punishing insurrectionists with something to lose, the lawyers, doctors, executives, cops, politicians, military, entrepreneurs, Beverley Hill salon owners in Chanel boots and Louis Vutton sweaters, and most of all Trump and his accomplices in Congress, will isolate the most violent elements from broader public support.


Cliven Bundy family rallies support for bill banning federal ownership of land in Nevada Cliven Bundy news conference. State Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore on the far left (Screencap)


The road to insurrection began in Nevada where rancher and family patriarch Cliven Bundy launched an anti-government crusade in 2014. After decades of illegally grazing cattle on public land, Bundy was ordered to pay $1.1 million in fees and fines. Bundy, who boasts, "I abide by almost zero federal laws," refused and after three court orders, the government began seizing his 500 cattle. Bundy called for a "range war," and hundreds of heavily armed "patriots" and militiamen answered. The feds' tepid response backfired. Surrounded and outgunned, federal police retreated, returned the cattle, and allowed Bundy to continue his criminal activities.

The right was galvanized, particularly by the image of a sniper on a highway overpass aiming his rifle at the feds. It was a model for the social media violence the right used to recruit new extremists during the Trump years. The sense of impunity the imagery conferred was likely why so many of the QAnon mob provided evidence of their guilt with selfies and videos inside the Capitol. Like the Bundys, like Trump, they thought documenting their crimes would allow them to get away with it.

The Bundy standoff also foreshadowed Trump by drawing extremists with white supremacist sympathies. Cliven Bundy, who mused that Blacks "were better off as slaves," attracted the Three Percent militia, which faced off against clergy protesting at the deadly Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville in 2017, and the Oath Keepers which promotes racist conspiracy theories. Both militias were on the frontlines of the battle of the Capitol.

Treated with kid gloves, the Bundy gang were emboldened to stoke more conflicts with the first Black president. Ryan Bundy led an illegal ATV foray into a canyon in Utah in May 2014, weeks after the feds stood down in Nevada. Then the Oathkeepers tried to turn a minor legal dispute over a gold mine in Southern Oregon into an armed confrontation. In August 2015, militias rallied at a mine in Montana hoping to ignite another anti-government conflict.

In the fall of 2015 Ammon and Ryan set their sights on Malheur. They arrived in Eastern Oregon championing two ranchers, Dwight and Steve Hammond, convicted of setting fires in Malheur. The Bundys and their supporters warned the local sheriff if he didn't stop the ranchers from being imprisoned, they would return with hundreds of armed men and "do the sheriff's job for him." One supporter talked of killing the sheriff.

Despite the clear threat the Bundys posed, it's never been explained why they were allowed to operate freely, just as all the forewarnings of violence on Capitol Hill went unheeded. On January 2, 2016, the Bundys and a dozen armed men took the refuge unopposed. That impunity extended to the father-son ranchers who were little more than criminals. As The Raw Story reported at the time, the Hammonds had for decades allegedly destroyed Malheur's delicate ecosystem with cattle, damaged government vehicles and property, hunted animals by air in the refuge, and threatened to kill Fish and Wildlife employees and their families.


FBI agent charged with lying about Oregon refuge shooting: report Robert "LaVoy" Finicum speaks to The Oregonian (screen grab)


The Raw Story went inside the Bundy occupation. Nearly every occupier was armed, some with multiple guns, despite a prohibition of firearms. They used government equipment, buildings, and vehicles as if they were their own. They built fortifications that damaged "an archaeological site sacred to the Burns Paiute Tribe."

By flaunting their lawlessness, the Bundys believed they could get away with it. Trump used the same playbook, planning his crimes in the open, culminating in the insurrection. The Bundys' plotted to ignite a sagebrush revolt against Washington. To that end they set up a shadow government with their own legislative and judicial bodies to displace the real one.

The Bundy's cast included a self-appointed judge running secret grand juries to indict county commissioners and the sheriff and remove them from office. How they planned to do that without violence they couldn't say. When asked by reporters for the names of the grand jurors, the "judge" threatened to charge the reporters with felonies. When a reporter told Ryan Bundy, during a two-hour lecture on the Constitution conducted from inside his pick-up truck, "You want to overthrow the government," he went silent. It wasn't a secret. From the start of the occupation, the sheriff accused the Bundys of wanting to "overthrow the county and federal government."

They wanted to spark a revolution. Their followers knew it. But they never said it outright because their strategy was to pose for the cameras as homespun cowboys defending the flag and freedoms. And the media lapped it up. Trump used the same strategy on January 6. He told the MAGA crowd, "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore." He never told the mob to storm the Capitol, so he can play innocent. But his followers knew exactly what he meant as many of those arrested are now claiming in self-defense, "Trump said to do so."

In the name of freedom, the Bundys and the hundreds of malcontents who flocked to the nearby town of Burns terrorized local residents. Federal employees were stalked and eventually fled with their families. The Bundys showed up to town meetings and surrounded the room with armed men. Supporters drove around town waving guns and Confederate flags. Police disappeared from the streets and hunkered down in the courthouse behind concrete barriers and earthen berms used to fend off car bombers. This set a pattern for the Trump years. The Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer have invaded cities such as Portland, Washington, D.C., and Charlottesville, marching under the banner of freedom, while attacking and terrorizing locals with little police interference and few legal consequences.


America has shown a fidelity to white supremacy we can't dismiss -- regardless of the election's final outcome White supremacists march on Charlottesville, VA during the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally that left a woman dead. Image via Karla Cote/Creative Commons.


The feds ambushed the Bundys after 41 days, gunning down their spokesman LaVoy Finnicum. But they got away with it. Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five defendants were acquitted in 2016, days before Trump's election. The prosecution botched the case. They were accused of undercharging, sloppy legal work, and the defense was allowed to stack the jury with rural gun owners sympathetic to the Bundy's weepy Western tale of rugged individualism. The Bundys caused $6 million in damage to the refuge and the bill for law enforcement was another $12 million. They agreed in principle — but not actuality, — to pay back $78,000 and were freed from further prosecution. To top it off, Cliven Bundy and his followers walked free after a judge threw their case out of court, citing flagrant prosecutorial misconduct by Department of Justice lawyers in Nevada.

The Bundy acquittal was proof of racial double standards and forms a straight line to January 6. The danger for Biden is going easy on the Capitol Hill rioters as juries and judges will look on them sympathetically because they are conservative and white. Unless the punishment fits the crime of insurrection, the right will take it as a license to use more violence.

Disturbingly, prosecutors are already raising the evidentiary bar far higher for MAGA rioters than against Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters. After claiming insurrectionists were planning to "capture and assassinate" politicians, prosecutors walked it back in court, saying, "There is no direct evidence at this point of kill-capture teams and assassination."

Except the world can see and hear all the evidence of individuals vowing to kill elected officials, coming equipped with weapons and zip ties to do so, and fighting their way into the Capitol to do so. Compare that to more than 300 federal prosecutions of George Floyd protesters that is unprecedented in its harshness. It includes such absurdities as charging a defendant for a federal crime because the bottle allegedly used to make a molotov cocktail came from Mexico and hauling defendants into federal court for trifling offenses such as "failing to obey a lawful order."

The threat of violence will remain high as Trump and FOX News gain from stoking conflict, while the thousands of extremists he inspired will see violence as the answer now that they believe they are out of power. Unless the Biden White House acts decisively to douse the fire of right-wing terrorism, the next time it may consume us all.

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