Former President Donald Trump will appear before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Thursday. Nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama, Judge Chutkan is known for delivering prison sentences in Jan. 6, 2021, riot cases that are tougher than what prosecutors recommend.
Trump has been indicted with federal felony charges for his persistent attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election leading up to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.
This is not the first time Chutkan has ruled against Trump in a Jan. 6 case. In November 2021, she denied his request to block the release of documents to the U.S. House’s Jan. 6 committee, asserting that executive privilege does not extend indefinitely.
Chutkan has sentenced a total of 38 individuals convicted of Capitol riot-related crimes. All 38 received prison terms, ranging from 10 days to over five years, based on court records analyzed by the Associated Press.
Among the two dozen judges in Washington, D.C., who have collectively sentenced close to 600 defendants involved in the Jan. 6 siege, Chutkan stands out for often matching or exceeding prosecutors’ recommendations. In fact, she has surpassed those recommendations in 19 out of her 38 sentences. In some instances, prosecutors did not seek any jail time at all.
Judge Chutkan’s firm and fair approach to sentencing demonstrates her commitment to upholding the law and ensuring that no one, including former presidents, is above it.
The Role of Prison as a Deterrent Against Insurrection
In a recent statement, Judge Chutkan emphasized the importance of prison as a deterrent against the threat of another insurrection. The concern arises from reports of anti-democratic factions plotting violence and potential threats in 2024. To address this issue, she sentenced a Florida man who had attacked police officers to more than five years behind bars, marking the longest sentence for a Jan. 6 case at that time.
According to Judge Chutkan, it is imperative to establish that any attempts to violently overthrow the government, impede the peaceful transition of power, or assault law enforcement officers will result in severe and certain punishment.
However, during a hearing in 2021, Judge Trevor McFadden – a nominee of former President Trump – expressed his belief that the Justice Department was treating those who breached the Capitol too harshly compared to those arrested during the protests against racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
While refraining from mentioning her colleague by name, Judge Chutkan later criticized Judge McFadden’s view. She argued that comparing the actions of protesters advocating for civil rights, who were mostly peaceful but unfortunately some became violent, to those of the violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government was a false equivalency. She further emphasized that such a comparison disregards the very real danger posed by the Jan. 6 riot to the foundation of our democracy.