NATIONAL NEWS

Government tries to claw back money so Jan. 6 rioters don’t profit from online appeals

May 28, 2023, 5:41 AM

FILE - Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan...

FILE - Insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. A growing number of Capitol rioters are facing hefty fines on top of prison sentences at their sentencing hearings. That's because prosecutors appear to be ramping up efforts to prevent them from profiting from their participation in the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. An Associated Press review of court records shows prosecutors in riot cases are increasingly asking judges to impose sentences that include fines to offset donations from supporters of the rioters. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Less than two months after he pleaded guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol, Tucker Carlson’s then-Fox News show and promoted a website where supporters could donate money to Goodwyn and other rioters whom the site called “political prisoners.”

The Justice Department now wants Goodwyn to give up more than $25,000 he raised — a clawback that is part of a growing effort by the government to prevent rioters from being able to personally profit from participating in the attack that shook the foundations of American democracy.

An Associated Press review of court records shows that prosecutors in the more than 1,000 of the Jan. 6, 2021, criminal cases are increasingly asking judges to impose fines on top of prison sentences to offset donations from supporters of the Capitol rioters.

Dozens of defendants have set up online fundraising appeals for help with legal fees, and prosecutors acknowledge there’s nothing wrong with asking for help for attorney expenses. But the Justice Department has, in some cases, questioned where the money is really going because many of those charged have had government-funded legal representation.

Most of the fundraising efforts appear on GiveSendGo, which bills itself as “The #1 Free Christian Fundraising Site” and has become a haven for Jan. 6 defendants barred from using mainstream crowdfunding sites, including GoFundMe, to raise money. The rioters often proclaim their innocence and portray themselves as victims of government oppression, even as they cut deals to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.

Their fundraising success suggests that many people in the United States still view Jan. 6 rioters as patriots and cling to the baseless belief that pledging to pardon rioters if he is elected.

Markus Maly, a Virginia man scheduled to be sentenced next month for assaulting police at the Capitol, raised more than $16,000 from an online campaign that described him as a “January 6 P.O.W.” and asked for money for his family. Prosecutors have requested a $16,000-plus fine, noting that Maly had a public defender and did not owe any legal fees.

“He should not be able to use his own notoriety gained in the commission of his crimes to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol breach in this way,” a prosecutor wrote in court papers.

So far this year, prosecutors have sought more than $390,000 in fines against at least 21 riot defendants, in amounts ranging from $450 to more than $71,000, according to the AP’s tally.

Judges have imposed at least $124,127 in fines against 33 riot defendants this year. In the previous two years, judges ordered more than 100 riot defendants to collectively pay more than $240,000 in fines.

Separately, judges have ordered hundreds of convicted rioters to pay more than $524,000 in restitution to the government to cover more than $2.8 million in damage to the Capitol and other Jan. 6-related expenses.

More rioters facing the most serious charges and longest prison terms are now being sentenced. They tend to also be the prolific fundraisers, which could help explain the recent surge in fines requests.

Earlier this month, the judge who sentenced Nathaniel DeGrave to more than three years in prison also ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors noted that the Nevada resident “incredibly” raised over $120,000 in GiveSendGo fundraising campaigns that referred to him as “Beijing Biden’s political prisoner” in “America’s Gitmo” — a reference to the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

“He did this despite seeking to cooperate with the government and admitting he and his co-conspirators were guilty since at least November 2021,” a prosecutor wrote.

Lawyer William Shipley, who has represented DeGrave and more than two dozen other Jan. 6 defendants, said he advises clients to avoid raising money under the auspices of being a political prisoner if they intend to plead guilty.

“Until they admit they committed a crime, they’re perfectly entitled to shout from the rooftops that the only reason they’re being held is because of politics,” Shipley said. “It’s just First Amendment political speech.”

Shipley said he provided the judge with documentation showing that DeGrave raised approximately $25,000 more than what he paid his lawyers.

“I’ve never had to do it until these cases because I’ve never had clients that had third-party fundraising like this,” Shipley said. “There’s a segment of the population that is sympathetic toward the plight of these defendants.”

GiveSendGo co-founder Heather Wilson said her site’s decision to allow legal defense funds for Capitol riot defendants “is rooted in our society’s commitment to the presumption of innocence and the freedom for all individuals to hire private attorneys.”

The government’s push for more fines comes as it reaches a milestone in the largest federal investigation in American history: Just over 500 defendants have been sentenced for Jan. 6 crimes.

Judges aren’t rubber-stamping prosecutors’ fine requests.

Prosecutors sought a more than $70,000 fine for Peter Schwartz, a Kentucky man who attacked police officers outside the Capitol with pepper spray and a chair. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Schwartz this month to more than 14 years in prison — the longest so far in a Capitol riot case — but didn’t impose a fine.

Prosecutors suspect Schwartz tried to profit from his fundraising campaign, “Patriot Pete Political Prisoner in DC.” But his lawyer, Dennis Boyle, said there is no evidence of that.

The judge “basically said that if the money was being used for attorneys’ fees or other costs like that, there was no basis for a fine,” Boyle said.

A jury convicted Dr. Simone Gold, a California physician who is a leading figure in the anti-vaccine movement. Now prosecutors are seeking a $50,000 fine on top of a prison term for Strand when a judge sentences him on Thursday.

Strand has raised more than $17,300 for his legal defense without disclosing that he has a taxpayer-funded lawyer, according to prosecutors. They say Strand appears to have “substantial financial means,” living in a home that was purchased for more than $3 million last year.

“Strand has raised, and continues to raise, money on his website based upon his false statements and misrepresentations on the events of January 6,” prosecutors wrote.

Goodwyn, who appeared on Carlson’s show in March, is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Defense lawyer Carolyn Stewart described prosecutors are “demanding blood from a stone” in asking for the $25,000 fine.

“He received that amount in charity to help him in his debt for legal fees for former attorneys and this for unknown reasons is bothersome to the government,” Stewart wrote.

___

Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

Independent report criticizes Cuomo’s ‘top-down’ management of New York’s COVID-19 response

NEW YORK (AP) — An investigation into New York’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic found former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “top down” approach of dictating public health policy through his office, rather than coordinating with state and local agencies, sewed confusion during the crisis. In the state’s nursing homes, where some 15,000 people died, the administration’s […]

28 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging federal rules to accommodate abortions for workers

CHICAGO (AP) — A lawsuit filed by 17 states challenging federal rules entitling workers to time off and other accommodations for abortions lacks standing, a federal judge in Arkansas ruled on Friday. Republican attorneys general from each state, led by Arkansas and Tennessee, sued the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April, days after the agency […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen; Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. ___ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif. ___ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. ___ CNN’s […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Las Vegas shooting survivors alarmed at US Supreme Court’s strike down of ban on rifle bump stocks

Survivors of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas and families who received somber calls from police hours later said they were alarmed when the U.S. Supreme Court Friday struck down a ban on the gun attachment used by the shooter who rattled off over 1,000 bullets into a crowd of thousands in 11 minutes. […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Prosecutor says ATF agent justified in fatal shooting of Little Rock airport director during raid

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas prosecutor on Friday said a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent was justified when he fatally shot the Little Rock airport director during a raid at his house in March. Pulaski County Prosecutor Will Jones said in a letter to ATF that no charges in the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Dogs’ digs at the Garden: Westminster show returning to Madison Square Garden next year

NEW YORK (AP) — Madison Square Garden is going back to the dogs. The Westminster Kennel Club announced this week that its storied dog show is returning next year to the Manhattan arena for the first time since 2020. That year’s show was held weeks before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and shutdowns began in […]

4 hours ago

Government tries to claw back money so Jan. 6 rioters don’t profit from online appeals