‘Peril to democracy’: PIO judge to militia leader in Capitol riot case

WASHINGTON: A Gujarat-born Indian-American judge lambasted a Trump-supporting right wing extremist for “seditious conspiracy” against the US on Thursday before handing him an 18-year prison sentence, the harshest punishment meted out to anyone from the mob that stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
US district judge Amit Priyavadan Mehta, who was born in Patan in Gujarat and grew up in Maryland, outside Washington DC, lit into the far-right anti-government militia group Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes, telling him that he and his ilk “pose an ongoing threat and peril to our democracy and the fabric of this country. ” “I dare say we all now hold our collective breaths when an election is approaching. Will we have another January 6 again? That remains to be seen. ”
Explaining that a seditious conspiracy is among the most serious crimes an American can commit, Mehta said“it is an offense against the government to use force and it is an offense against the people of our country”. “It is a series of acts in which you and others committed to use force, including potentially with weapons, against the government of the US as it transitioned from one president to another. And what was the motive? You didn’t like the new guy,” he told Rhodes, rejecting his argument that he was a “political prisoner”.
“What we absolutely cannot have is a group of citizens who — because they did not like the outcome of an election, who did not believe the law was followed as it should be — foment revolution. You don’t take to the streets with rifles. You don’t hope that the president invokes the insurrection act so you can start a war in the streets… You don’t rush into the US Capitol with the hope to stop the electoral vote count,” Mehta said, in remarks that also suggested censure of former president Donald Trump, who has defended the January 6 events and indicated he will pardon those convicted if he returns to power.
Mehta, 52, is presiding over several high-profile cases relating to the January 6 attack and Trump’s role in it. They include three civil lawsuits in which several lawmakers and police officers are suing for damages for physical and emotional injuries they allegedly incurred during the attacks.
Mehta has already issued a lengthy opinion that rejected Trump’s claim of “absolute immunity” from lawsuits, ruling that his actions were not part of his presidential duties, and that there was plausible evidence to suggest he engaged in a conspiracy with organised groups to use any means, including violence, to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump supporters expectedly unloaded on Mehta, describing him as a left liberal and calling for his impeachment.

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