Rabbis accused in Capitol Riot want $ 50 verdict, accuses DOJ of ‘Tar and Feathering’


Michael Stepakoff, a Messianic rabbi, hopes to receive a lenient sentence for his participation in the Capitol riots, in part because he did not have the “luxury” of having a complete picture of the violence that was unfolding at the time.

Stepakoff is accused of taking pictures inside the Capitol and pleaded guilty to a single charge of parade, demonstration or strike in a Capitol building, a common charge of accused troublemakers. Prosecutors want him to spend 14 days in jail, but Stepakoff asked a judge to hand down a $ 50 sentence.

Stepakoff’s request for a $ 50 fine stems from a 2018 case involving a woman arrested during a protest by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, according to a court document obtained by Newsweek His lawyer, Marina Medvin, wrote in court that the woman was charged locally for demonstrating in the Senate gallery, but had her case dismissed as soon as she paid a $ 50 fine.

Medvin argued that the “most significant difference” between the two cases is that Stepakoff supported Trump and that the woman was part of a progressive women’s group.

Prosecutors are pressuring judges to consider that the defendant’s actions took place in connection with a “large and violent riot” that temporarily halted the certification of a presidential election. However, Stepakoff’s lawyer claimed in a lawsuit that during the riot, his client was not aware of the “omniscient luxury” that prosecutors currently have.

“At no point on January 6 did Michael Stepakoff understand the extent of the violent people’s behavior in the crowd of Trump protesters,” a court document obtained by Newsweek said. “Mr Stepakoff immediately brushed off the stories as a combination of media embellishment and infiltration by Antifa or other malicious actors who tried to make Trump supporters look bad.”

Rabbis accused in Capitol Riot want $ 50 verdict, accuses DOJ of ‘Tar and Feathering’
Michael Stepakoff, a Messianic rabbi, is asking a judge for a $ 50 sentence for his role in the Capitol riot.
Ministry of Justice / Getty Images

His lawyer told the judge in a lawsuit that prosecutors asked Judge Rudolph Contreras to “punish” the defendant for events he did not attend and conduct he was unaware of at the time the crime was committed. Medvin called it “unethical and unfair” to hold Stepakoff accountable for “the results of a politically heated meeting that went out of control.”

If Stepakoff had been accused of conspiracy or known of the “extent of lawlessness” that took place at the Capitol, Medvin told the judge’s prosecutors’ attempts to bring Capitol troublemakers together could be reasonable.

“But under the actual pattern, the government engages in unreasonably excessive reach and is passionate about vindictive prosecution,” he wrote.

The government has often argued that defendants should serve prison sentences as a means of discouraging others from engaging in similar behavior. Judges have generally agreed that deterrence is necessary, but prosecutors’ recommendations that defendants at least get time behind bars are often in doubt.

Medvin argued that jail time is not necessary because the public is already deterred by the “relentless” prosecution of Capitol riot participants. He also wrote that the Justice Department is committed to a “modern version of tar and feathers” by creating “public-shaming websites for each accused.” He pointed to the minimal attendance for a protest in support of the defendants on January 6th.

The 56-year-old went to the Capitol after hearing former President Donald Trump speak and expected it to be “another protest event”. His lawyer claimed he was unaware that it was illegal to be in the Capitol and that Stepakoff told the FBI he considered the Capitol a “Ground Zero for political protest.”

While inside, Stepakoff shook hands with a police officer, according to court documents, and his lawyer claimed he did not break any barricades to reach the Capitol door.

Prosecutors cast doubt on the argument that Stepakoff was unaware of the illegal nature of his actions when he was a lawyer who practiced criminal law for a decade. They claimed he saw people climbing on the wall outside the Capitol and people climbing through the windows, but said he did not notice it.

“At best, Stepakoff turned a blind eye, several times, to the signs of transgression, violence and danger all around him as he approached and entered the Capitol in the midst of the siege, which succeeded in stopping the peaceful transfer of power. worst case scenario, Stepakoff understood exactly what he was a part of and his allegations to the contrary are now untrue, “the prosecutor wrote in court.

Stepakoff is scheduled to be convicted on January 20.

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