US Seeks Jan 6 Rioter Donations 05/28 09:56
(AP) -- Less than two months after he pleaded guilty to storming the U.S.
Capitol, Texas resident Daniel Goodwyn appeared on 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 criminal cases from Jan. 6, 2021, 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
Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. The former
president himself has fueled that idea, pledging to pardon rioters if he is
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
"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
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 -- one of 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 romance novel cover model John Strand of storming the
Capitol with 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,"
Goodwyn, who appeared on Carlson's show in March, is scheduled to be
sentenced next month. Defense lawyer Carolyn Stewart described prosecutors as
"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.