Barr Issues Instructions to Federal Prosecutors: Charge Violent Protesters
Attorney General William Barr spent much of the third week in September reaching out to federal prosecutors all across the U.S., including Tampa. He instructed federal prosecutors in these areas to step up efforts to crack down on “violent” protesters.
This comes after President Donald Trump sent federal agents into areas like Portland and Chicago after weeks of violence amid the George Floyd protests. The Administration appears to be asking federal prosecutors to file federal charges against protesters even when there are state charges for the same crime.
For some demonstrators, federal charges will result in a longer prison sentence as federal sentencing guidelines tend to be more severe than their counterparts at the state level.
What Did the Federal Government Do in Chicago?
The President sent federal agents including FBI agents into urban Chicago after the protests. The mission, known as Operation Legend, is still happening with mixed results. Once the feds came into Chicago, they dismantled a violent street gang called the Black Disciples. This gave them a very visible media victory even when Mayor Laurie Lightfoot appeared dismissive of the Administration’s efforts to lend a hand.
Since then, the arrests have been more pedestrian. One man was arrested on a federal weapons charge after police noted his vehicle was parked more than 12 inches from the curb. He is facing charges for being a felon in possession of a weapon.
More Than 300 Arrests
The Trump Administration has claimed that “thousands” of Americans were arrested during Operation Legend, but that number is closer to 300 (and rising) as of the writing of this article. While some of these charges are related to looting and arson, other charges seem far less in keeping with what the Administration is asking, leading some to believe that the Administration is attempting to stifle political dissent.
In one instance, a 12-year-old boy was charged with civil disorder after he made a Facebook post that said, “we are not each other’s enemy, only enemy is 12.” Twelve is a reference to law enforcement.
While some of the charges appear on the surface to merit the aggressiveness of the federal government, not all of them do.
Why Federal Charges are Bad
Federal prosecutions and related sentencings are governed by complex sentencing guidelines, while state prosecutions generally have more room for leniency. Florida has a flexible system that allows judges to impose a lower sentence if certain mitigating circumstances are present. It is a well-known fact that most criminal defendants in federal court receive a prison sentence instead of probation.
Several attorneys for Operation Legend defendants believe their clients are being railroaded, overcharged, and harmed by the Administration’s heavy-handed efforts to handle civil unrest at the protests.
Talk to a Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The Matassini Law Firm has significant trial experience in both state and federal courts. You need a Tampa criminal attorney who is comfortable going to trial in federal court. Call today to learn more.