In a surprising move, a federal judge appointed during the Trump administration recently utilized judicial discretion in sentencing a defendant linked with the January 6, 2021, Capitol incursion. The ruling differed notably from the prosecution’s recommended sentence, inciting a conversation about possible sentencing inconsistencies.
According to NBC News, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden issued a sentence of two years of probation and 60 days of home incarceration for Tyler Bensch. Bensch, a self-admitted participant in the Jan. 6 events, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts. Prosecutors initially sought a harsher punishment, arguing for a nine-month federal prison term.
While recognizing the gravity of Bensch’s involvement, Judge McFadden considered mitigating circumstances, including Bensch’s relatively minor role and his young age at the time of the incident – he was just 19.
In delivering the sentence, Judge McFadden reminded Bensch that this event did not have to determine the rest of his life. “This doesn’t need to define you or your life,” he told Bensch, implying that the defendant should use this as a lesson to grow.
Arrested in August with members of the Three Percent movement and “Guardians of Freedom,” Bensch pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on restricted grounds and theft of government property, related to the removal of a stolen police shield from the Capitol grounds.
Prosecutors highlighted Bensch’s alleged use of bear spray against another protester, escalating the situation. Despite this, Peter Cooper, Bensch’s court-appointed attorney, emphasized his client’s remorse and his lack of full comprehension of the consequences of his actions.
Cooper brought up Bensch’s aspiration to pursue a career in law enforcement, arguing that these misdemeanor charges should not unduly obstruct his path.
Currently, Bensch is working for a pool cleaning company and can continue doing so during his home detention period.
The case has drawn attention for its ties to former FBI special agent Steve Friend, who became an FBI whistleblower, criticizing the charging of protesters allegedly involved in assaulting officers on Jan. 6.
Friend testified before the GOP-led House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. He voiced his concerns about what he saw as unfair targeting of defendants and the perceived challenges they face in Washington, D.C., courts.
This case spotlights the long waits and significant sentences some Jan. 6 defendants are facing, often for misdemeanor offenses.
One such defendant, Barry Ramey, received a five-year federal prison sentence for assaulting officers with pepper spray. Prosecutors had originally requested nine years, but U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich reduced the sentence, citing potential sentencing disparities.
As legal proceedings for over 1,000 individuals charged in the Jan. 6 incursion continue, conversations about judicial discretion in sentencing and potential discrepancies in outcomes further influence the discourse surrounding accountability for the events of that day. This case may serve as a reminder that while it is crucial to hold individuals accountable, it is equally important to ensure that sentences are proportionate to the crimes committed.