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Federal judge condemns ‘normalization’ of January 6 while sentencing defiant rioter

A federal judge on Wednesday blasted a convicted January 6 rioter for downplaying the US Capitol attack and using the kind of revisionist rhetoric that former President Donald Trump often uses on the campaign trial.

“This cannot become normal… We cannot condone the normalization of the January 6 US Capitol riot,” US District Judge Royce Lamberth said while sentencing Taylor James Johnatakis to more than seven years in prison.

The judge warned of a “vicious cycle … that could imperil our institutions” if Americans, upset with future election results, resort to the “vigilantism, lawlessness and anarchy” that occurred on January 6, 2021.

He did not reference Trump by name while sentencing Johnatakis, but the comparisons were clear. After Johnatakis’ conviction in November, he has mirrored Trump’s rhetoric in interviews about the insurrection, saying “everything about January 6 is just overblown,” and referring to the jail in Washington, DC, as a “gulag.”

Trump has similarly put what he calls “January 6 hostages” front and center in his campaign. He has pledged to pardon some of the people facing charges for their role in the insurrection. And he has played a song at political rallies that features the voices of January 6 inmates singing the national anthem.

The judge declared Wednesday that “the January 6 riot was not civil disobedience,” but instead was a “corrosive” and “selfish, not patriotic” affront to the nation, where Americans were “battling (their) own representative government.” He invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau as examples of historic American figures who pursued “peaceful” but powerful acts of civil disobedience.

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

Johnatakis briefly spoke during the hearing, only to say “I repent for my sins,” and to ask several questions common among so-called Sovereign Citizen conspiracy theorists who don’t recognize the authority of the federal government.

Lamberth, a senior judge appointed by former President Ronald Reagan, dismissed these inquiries as “gobbledygook.”

Johnatakis was found guilty in November by a federal jury of seven crimes, including assaulting a police officer and obstructing the congressional proceedings. He has been in the DC jail since his conviction.

According to evidence presented at trial, Johnatakis attended Trump’s rally on January 6 and then threatened to “break down doors” while marching toward the Capitol. Once outside the building, he incited fellow Trump supporters in the massive mob by spewing fiery rhetoric over a megaphone – and later led the charge to breach the police line by using a metal barricade to overpower the officers.

He has been defiant about his actions, saying in a recent interview that “we did nothing” on January 6, and writing about the “injustice” that he and other Capitol riot defendants are facing behind bars.

Prosecutors said he deserved a longer prison term because of his “continued lack of remorse.”

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