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Federal judge at Jan. 6 sentencing: 'We cannot condone the normalization'

A federal judge admonished a Jan. 6 rioter during his sentencing Wednesday after the man downplayed the severity of the riots and his violent conduct.

“This cannot become normal. … We cannot condone the normalization of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot,” Judge Royce Lamberth said during the sentencing of Taylor James Johnatakis, CNN reported.

Johnatakis, a self-described “sovereign citizen,” was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and other felony and misdemeanor charges related to the riot, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. After his conviction last year, he repeatedly downplayed the riots in interviews, calling the riot “overblown” and his prison accommodations a “gulag.”

Lamberth warned that future political violence may be possible if the country does not learn lessons from Jan. 6, warning of a “vicious cycle … that could imperil our institutions” resulting in “vigilantism, lawlessness and anarchy.”

“The Jan. 6 riot was not civil disobedience,” he said, CNN reported, instead calling it “corrosive” and a “selfish, not patriotic” action where rioters were “battling [their] own representative government.”

“There can be no room in our country for this sort of political violence,” he added.

According to prosecutors, Johnatakis pledged to “burn the city down,” before the riots, later showing up to the Capitol on Jan. 6 with a megaphone to rile up the crowd before leading a charge up the Capitol Building scaffolding through a police line.

Johnatakis then used the megaphone to organize heave-ho pushed against a second police line and attacked police officers outside the Capitol before entering it.

Lamberth’s comments Wednesday marked the second time he has denounced the rhetoric of rioters and their supporters. In January, he blasted conservatives who dubbed convicted rioters “hostages” and “patriots.”

“In my thirty-seven years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream,” he wrote in January. “I have been dismayed to see distortions and outright falsehoods seep into the public consciousness.”

More than 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes, according to the Justice Department. More than 800 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds getting terms of imprisonment ranging from several days to 22 years.

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