Jan. 6 Rioters Are Raking in the Donations. Feds Aren't Having It

Prosecutors now routinely ask judges for fines, as well as prison terms
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 29, 2023 7:29 AM CDT
Jan. 6 Rioters Are Raking in the Donations. Feds Aren't Having It
Insurrectionists loyal to President Trump rally at the US Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. A growing number of Capitol rioters are facing hefty fines on top of prison at their sentencing hearings as prosecutors ramp up efforts to prevent them from profiting from the riot.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Less than two months after he pleaded guilty to storming the US 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 AP 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. 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. Some notables:

  • Markus Maly, a Virginia man to be sentenced next month for assaulting police at the Capitol, raised more than $16,000 from a campaign that described him as a “January 6 P.O.W.” Prosecutors sought a $16,000-plus fine, noting that Maly had a public defender and no 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," a prosecutor wrote in court papers.
  • Earlier this month, a judge sentenced Nathaniel DeGrave to more than three years in prison and ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors noted that the Nevada resident “incredibly” raised over $120,000 in GiveSendGo campaigns that referred to him as "Beijing Biden’s political prisoner” in "America’s Gitmo." "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 prosecutor wrote.
  • 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 $71,000.
  • 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.

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  • 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. US 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 say 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 and leading anti-vaxxer. Now prosecutors are seeking a $50,000 fine on top of prison 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. Prosecutors say Strand has “substantial financial means,” living in a home purchased for more than $3 million last year.
(More Capitol riot stories.)

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