Phil Andonian, a former DC public defender now in private practice at Caleb Andonian, thinks judges will likely sentence the ringleaders to a year or more. “It’s hard to imagine a judge finding it in him or herself to sentence to something less than that and have it be on the top fold of the [Washington] Post—basically slapping the wrist of somebody who did what British soldiers did last 200 some odd years ago,” he said.
In the wake of Wednesday’s events, Andonian reviewed the federal statute describing seditious conspiracy. The law prohibits any group of two or more people from, among other things, conspiring to overthrow the government, oppose its authority by force, and delay execution of any law: “I can’t make a good argument, even as an inveterate defense attorney, as to why this is not an absolutely black-letter-law, open-and-shut case of seditious conspiracy—starting with Trump all the way down.”
“We had a literal invasion of the seat of government on the day they’re certifying a duly held presidential election,” he continued. “And they took over and required shelter in place and evacuations. I mean, what else is that?”
Andonian helped defend the more than 200 people arrested in 2017 for alleged Inauguration Day rioting in what became known as the J20 case. The prosecutors in that case, pursuing felony charges with maximum sentences of about 70 years, argued that they didn’t have to show that any of the defendants had actually damaged private property—merely being in the vicinity of people who did things like break windows was enough to be guilty of felony offenses. This was an “utterly novel and totally insane theory” that Andonian had never seen before. (It ultimately failed in court, and most of the charges were dismissed.)