Jan. 6 rioter Joshua Black got a bit of good news on Friday, and even more no-so-good news. The Alabama man became the first Jan. 6 defendant who made it to the floor of the Senate during the Capitol breach to be acquitted on the most serious federal charge of obstruction of justice, after a weeklong bench trial.
However, Black — who claimed he surged onto the Senate floor to “plead the blood of Jesus” and absolve the chamber of evil spirits — was found guilty of five other Jan. 6 related charges, as Politico reported, including three weapons-related charges, one of which was a felony. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Black had a “unique stew in his mind” that left her uncertain whether he was aware that his actions were unlawful.
I’m pretty sure Black wasn’t the only Jan. 6 rioter with a unique stew in his mind, but I digress.
Anyway, Judge Jackson’s guilty verdicts against Black included disorderly conduct in a restricted building while carrying a dangerous weapon — a hunting knife — a felony that carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
After the riot, Black posted a video to YouTube in which he discussed entering the Capitol and the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, court documents show. Here’s part of what he said:
“We just wanted to get inside the building. I wanted to get inside the building so I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. That was my goal. I had accomplished my goal. I pled the blood of Jesus on the Senate floor. You know, I praised the name of Jesus on the Senate floor. That was my goal. I think that was God’s goal.”
Here’s more, via Politico:
Jackson said prosecutors failed to support the [obstruction of justice] charge with evidence proving Black’s intent. Evidence that Black intended to block Congress — or even was familiar with the congressional proceedings occurring that day — was “absent from the government’s case,” Jackson said. Some evidence suggested that by the time he arrived at the Capitol, Black believed that the certification of the election had ended, Jackson noted.
Black was seen in footage gathered with other rioters who had breached the Senate poring over papers on Senate desks and taking particular interest in a document that referenced Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Jackson spent a significant portion of Friday’s session explaining why she considered Black’s possession of a knife enough to meet the criteria of a “deadly or dangerous weapon.” While Black had contended that his knife was a “hunting knife” meant more as a tool than a weapon, Jackson said his comments to the FBI and the context of the riot told a different story.
Joshua Black’s sentencing hearing is May 5, 2023.
RedState has extensively covered the Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendants, including former President Donald Trump’s related comments. As I reported in December, Trump said the Jan. 6 defendants have been treated unconstitutionally, which he linked to the “weaponization” of the Justice Department before suggesting the country is “going communist.”
“You have been treated unconstitutionally, in my opinion, very, very unfairly. And we’re gonna get to the bottom of it, and you know what I’ve said: I take it very seriously. I have never seen anything like it, at all levels. It’s the weaponization of the Department of Justice and we can’t let this happen in our country because our country is going — not socialist; they’ve skipped over that — they skipped over socialism. Our country is going communist.”
“This is what happened, and we can’t let it happen. We have to stop it. So I wanna thank everybody for working so hard — I know how hard you’re working to get justice for our people that are imprisoned, right now, and people that are being tormented. We can’t let it happen, we’re going to stop it, and we’re going to win. Thank you all very much.”
“Going communist” is a bit hyperbolic, but to Trump’s point, as my colleague Nick Arama reported in November, a federal public defender argued that the FBI used an unprecedented “modern-day general warrant” to seize personal data of anyone who “could have been” in the approximate vicinity of the Capitol on Jan 6. Defense attorney Tara Fish said, “the warrant was therefore unconstitutionally overbroad.”
According to the Washington Post in early January, more than 930 Jan. 6 defendants have been federally charged, Of the 460 defendants charged with felonies, only 69 have been convicted and sentenced, so far, mostly for assaulting police or obstructing Congress. All but four of those have received jail or prison time. The average prison sentence for a felony conviction so far is 33 months.
Tellingly, judges have gone below prosecutors’ recommendations three-quarters of the time, and below federal sentencing guidelines less than 40 percent of the time.
Just one question: How do I ask this tactfully? What the hell is taking so long?