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Trump-Appointed Judge Gives ‘Break’ to Jan. 6 Defendant – Denies Punishment Sought by Prosecutors

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A federal judge appointed during the Trump administration recently exercised judicial discretion by granting a self-described “break” to a defendant implicated in the January 6, 2021 Capitol incursion.

The judge’s decision deviated from the prescribed prison term by the prosecution, sparking discussions about sentencing disparities in these cases.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden sentenced Tyler Bensch, who pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts related to the incursion, to two years of probation and 60 days of home confinement, as reported by NBC News.

Initially, prosecutors sought a harsher nine-month federal prison sentence for Bensch’s involvement.

While acknowledging the gravity of Bensch’s involvement in the January events, Judge McFadden regarded the defendant’s limited role relative to others and his youth as mitigating circumstances. Bensch was 19 years old when the incident occurred.

Judge McFadden emphasized the significance of avoiding repeating past errors. “This doesn’t need to define you or your life,” McFadden told Bensch.

Bensch, who was arrested in August alongside members of the Three Percent movement and the “Guardians of Freedom,” pleaded guilty to disorderly and disruptive conduct on restricted grounds and theft of government property for assisting in the removal of a stolen police shield from the Capitol grounds.

Prosecutors argued that Bensch’s use of bear spray on another protester contributed to the escalation of violence.

Bensch remained silent during the sentencing hearing, but his court-appointed counsel, Peter Cooper, conveyed his client’s regret and lack of comprehension regarding the gravity of his actions.

Cooper also emphasized Bensch’s desire to pursue a career in law enforcement, arguing that misdemeanor offenses should not adversely affect his future opportunities.

Bensch is currently employed by a pool maintenance company, and the terms of his sentence permit him to exit his residence for work during the 60-day home detention period.

The case involving Bensch garnered attention because of its connection to former FBI special agent Steve Friend, who became an FBI whistleblower after expressing his disagreement with prosecuting demonstrators who allegedly assaulted officers on January 6.

Friend testified before the Republican-led House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, raising concerns about the alleged unjust targeting of defendants and the perceived difficulties encountered by individuals in courts in Washington, D.C.

Several of the January 6 defendants have spent months or even years in prison awaiting their day in court, and others are facing unusually lengthy prison terms for misdemeanor offenses.

In another case related to January 6, Barry Ramey was sentenced to five years in federal prison for pepper spray assault on police officers.

In order to resolve potential sentencing disparities, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich opted for a lesser sentence than the nine-year term initially requested by prosecutors.

As the legal proceedings for more than 1,000 individuals charged in connection with the January 6 incursion unfold, discussions about the judicial discretion exercised in sentencing and potential variations in outcomes continue to shape the larger discourse surrounding accountability for the events of that day.

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