WASHINGTON — A federal judge pushed back against the idea that incarcerated Capitol riot defendants are “political prisoners” on Wednesday during a sentencing hearing for a Michigan man who pleaded guilty of entering the Capitol.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said it was clear from statements he made before and after January 6 that Karl Dresch, of Calumet, Michigan, didn’t travel to D.C. on January 6 to attend a rally – and that he wasn’t charged or jailed because of his political views.
“He is not a political prisoner,” Jackson said. “We are not here today because he supported former President Trump. He was an enthusiastic participant in an effort to subvert the electoral process.”
Dresch has been in custody since his arrest in January on multiple charges in connection with the Capitol riot, including obstruction of an official proceeding and disorderly conduct.
According to charging documents, Dresch posted multiple photos and videos of himself inside the Capitol on January 6, including one with a caption denying that “antifa” had been responsible for the breach.
“We the people took back our house… and now those traitors know who’s really in charge,” Dresch posted.
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The day after the riot, the FBI says Dresch posted that, “Mike Pence gave our country to the communist hordes,” and, in an apparent nod to former President Donald Trump, “We have your back give the word and we will be back even stronger.”
The idea that January 6 defendants are being held in custody for political reasons has gained traction recently among some on the right. Last week, four Republican members of the House – including Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who reportedly helped organize the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally – attempted to enter the D.C. jail over alleged concerns about how Capitol riot defendants are being treated. Jail staff denied the members of Congress access.
Dresch appeared in D.C. District Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. In exchange, the government agreed to drop the remaining counts against him – including the felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding. Because he has been in custody since his arrest, sentencing guidelines meant Dresch had already served more than the maximum six months he could be sentenced to for parading.
Jackson said while Dresch clearly showed a lack of respect for the rule of law or the democratic process, the plea deal was appropriate because, unlike other defendants, he was not accused of violence or destruction of property.
“To his credit, while the defendant is a big talker, his actions did not match his rhetoric,” Jackson said.
Dresch will have to pay $500 in restitution and a $10 court fee. Jackson waived additional fines, finding that he was financially unable to pay them.
Before ending the hearing, Jackson admonished Dresch about his attempt to subvert democracy on January 6.
“Your vote doesn’t count more than anyone else’s. You don’t get to cancel them out, call for a war, because you don’t like the results of an election,” she said. “You call yourself a patriot? That’s not patriotism. Patriotism is loyalty to country, loyalty to the Constitution, not loyalty to a single head of state. That’s the tyranny we rejected on July 4, 1776.”
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