'There Have To Be Consequences': Judge Worries Capitol Rioters Get 'Slap On The Wrist'

Judge Tanya Chutkan, a former public defender, sentenced Matthew Mazzocco to 45 days of incarceration. The government sought home detention.
Matthew Carl Mazzocco (center).
Matthew Carl Mazzocco (center).
Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Getty/United States District Court/U.S. Attorney's Office

A federal judge said Monday that there “have to be consequences” for the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and raised concerns that members of the mob were getting off light.

Judge Tanya Chutkan, a former public defender, made her comments while sentencing Jan. 6 defendant Matthew Mazzocco to 45 days of incarceration. Federal prosecutors had requested that Mazzocco be sentenced to three months’ home confinement, which Chutkan said wouldn’t provide adequate deterrence.

“There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government beyond sitting at home,” Chutkan said Monday.

“The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the history of this country before,” Chutkan said. While Mazzocco was far less culpable of many others who participated in the riot, he was proud of what he did, Chutkan said.

“That mob was trying to overthrow the government,” Chutkan said, and “showed their contempt for the rule of law.” She rejected comparisons between the protests of the summer of 2020 in support of civil rights and the attack on the Capitol, which she said was “no mere protest.”

Judge Tanya Chutkan.
Judge Tanya Chutkan.
United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Mazzocco, Chutkan said, did not go to the Capitol because of love of country or in support of democracy. He went there to support “one man,” she said, referencing former President Donald Trump.

Mazzocco was charged with four crimes (all misdemeanors) and pleaded guilty to one count under a plea deal: one count of “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.”

Chutkan pointed out that Jan. 6 defendants were not arrested on the spot like they should have been and were able to go home. She pointed out that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, defendants like Mazzocco didn’t even have to travel back to D.C. for court appearances. And she said that many were allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses as part of plea agreements.

Chutkan said that she accepted Mazzocco’s apology and believed it to be sincere, but that his remorse only came when Mazzocco realized he was in trouble and that he could go to jail for what he did. She said the defendant tried to diminish the seriousness of his actions by casting blame on groups like “Antifa” that “weren’t even there” on Jan. 6.

Many of her former clients as a public defender, Chutkan said, did not have the benefit of the strong family support that Mazzocco had. Chutkan cited a quote from civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who said that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” She said she believed that Mazzocco could turn himself around.

The FBI has made more than 600 arrests in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and hundreds more arrests are in the works.