Federal judge finds D.C. prison officials in contempt for mistreating January 6 defendant

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A federal judge has found D.C. Department of Corrections Director Quincy Booth and Warden Wanda Patten in contempt of court for failing to provide medical treatment to a January 6 defendant and has referred the case to Attorney General Merrick Garland for a civil rights investigation and possible prosecution.

Quick Facts

The defendant, Christopher Worrell, was arrested for his role in the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol and is being held without bail. In May, he broke his wrist and a surgeon recommended he have surgery in June. Worrell still has not received the surgery because the Department of Corrections has not turned the paperwork over to the U.S. Marshals Service, which oversees the secure transport of prisoners for medical services.

Moreover, his previous attorney claimed that Worrell was not receiving adequate treatment for his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His current attorney claims his client was found unconscious with a broken hand in May after what was possibly a fall tied to his cancer.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth stated, “It is more than just inept and bureaucratic shuffling of papers. I find that the civil rights of the defendant have been abridged. I don’t know if it’s because he is a Jan. 6 defendant or not, but I find that this matter should be referred to the attorney general of the United States … for a civil rights investigation.”

The ruling brings greater attention to alleged abuses of other January 6 defendants. In June, lawyers John Pierce and Steven Metcalf II told the Epoch Times’ EpicTV that some of the defendants are being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and in conditions that violate “every single basic human right.” Pierce explained, “There are about 50 plus or minus that are being detained, that have been in prison for months and will likely remain in prison for many more months until their day in court.”

Metcalf noted the horrific conditions that defendant Jake Lang is facing. “I’m being told the water is black — he has to filter the water through a sock in order to even drink water. In addition to only going out one hour a day, there’s also the weekend, [when] he doesn’t get out at all, and he’s not able to use a shower, get a shave for days on end.”

He claims there is a level of fear instilled in the inmates. “Anything that they do, or if anybody speaks up on their behalf, all of a sudden, they get targeted even further and then get put into a dangerous, unsanitary condition.”

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, said,

“The biggest reason why federal prosecutors want to hold someone without bail is that it’s much easier to get a plea agreement and a deal when someone’s already in federal prison. It’s very difficult, especially for someone who has no criminal history, to sign that plea agreement and agree to surrender and go to federal prison. So, some of it is actually danger to the community, but some of it is actually strategy and tactics to get folks to plead guilty.”

It’s hard to believe that this is happening in America. Speedy trials and fair and humane treatment of prisoners are hallmarks of our judicial system. Everyone has a right to due process under the law — whether someone is accused of terrorism, murder, armed robbery, writing bad checks, or disorderly conduct.

Some of the January 6 defendants are charged with serious crimes, including assault on a police officer, obstruction of justice, and theft, while others have been charged with non-violent crimes like trespassing. Many of them have been held in jail for more than eight months, a time that is longer than even the sentence for which some have been charged.

Some may be guilty, some may not. At this point, no one knows as the vast majority have only been charged with crimes, not convicted. Under the Constitution, they each have a right to defend themselves publicly before a jury or judge. That prosecutors and corrections officials are using their power as leverage to force the defendants to agree to plea bargains rather than have their cases brought before a judge or jury is bad enough, but the fact that many of the defendants are being horribly mistreated while in jail, including having medical treatment withheld, is shameful.

The defendants need to have their day in court before a judge and impartial jury. And the trials should be televised live. If this was indeed an insurrection that threatened the American way of life, then the American people have a right to know exactly what happened on that day and to hear it told firsthand by both sides: the government and those who have been accused of partaking in an insurrection.

To do anything less would also be an attack on the American way of life, as due process and open trials for those charged with even the most heinous crimes is what distinguishes us from tyrannical and barbarous systems. To do anything less would be to pursue revenge — not justice.