Judge Assigned To Trump Case Is Known For Tough Jan. 6 Sentences

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has handed out the two longest prison sentences to Capitol rioters thus far.
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U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, the judge assigned to oversee the new case against former President Donald Trump, is known for having handed out some of the most aggressive sentences thus far to rioters who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

That could be bad news for Trump, who was indicted Tuesday on four federal charges related to his role in the riot.

In June, an Associated Press review of sentences handed out to rioters involved in the attack found that Chutkan, an ex-assistant public defender who was nominated to the judiciary by former President Barack Obama, stood out as the toughest sentencer among the judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The report found that of the 11 cases Chutkan has presided over, she imposed tougher sentences than those sought by the Justice Department seven times, and matched the DOJ’s request four times. She sentenced all 11 defendants to time behind bars.

Those figures are exceptional, AP found. Chutkan is the only judge who has exceeded prosecutors’ recommended punishment in a majority of the cases they oversaw. As a whole, the 20 judges presiding over Jan. 6 cases have given lighter sentences than those requested by prosecutors 75% of the time.

Chutkan has handed out the two longest sentences imposed so far on any Jan. 6 defendants. Last week, she gave Mike Ponder, who assaulted police officers at the Capitol, 63 months in federal prison. His sentence is tied for the longest with rioter Robert Palmer, whom Chutkan sentenced in December 2021.

“He didn’t get what he wanted,” Chutkan said at Ponder’s sentencing. “And because he didn’t, he felt entitled to attack law enforcement officers who were simply doing their job.”

Chutkan also spoke about her belief in harsh punishments for Jan. 6 rioters at Palmer’s sentencing.

“It has to be made clear that trying to violently overthrow the government, trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, and assaulting law enforcement officers in that effort is going to be met with absolutely certain punishment,” she said at the time.

Trump is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Thursday.

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