What is the appropriate sanction for a “pawn” who participated in a coup attempt?

One thing I informally track in January 6 guilty pleas is education level. At the beginning of most change of plea hearings, as part of an effort to substantiate competence to plead guilty, most judges ask, “How far did you go in school?” I first started to take note when Oath Keeper Graydon Young replied that he has a graduate degree. He’s a dramatic outlier. Since then, my very informal tracking of this detail has shown that very very few of the January 6 defendants who’ve pled guilty so far have a four year degree (others who do include but are not limited to Cleveland Meredith Jr, Jenna Ryan, and Andrew Ericson, the latter of whom finished a CompSci degree since the riot).

I track this demographic not out of intellectual snobbery. I know of some absolutely brilliant people who didn’t finish school (a close family member has been very successful without finishing college, and a good number of the smartest students in the 600 student high school class of which I was valedictorian dropped out short of graduation).

Rather, it’s that based on this unscientific observation, the January 6 defendants who’ve pled guilty are, demographically, dramatically less likely to have a four-year degree than the US population, closer to 10% (perhaps 8 of the 96 people who’ve pled guilty) than the 36% that one might expect of the population more broadly. To be sure, this is not scientific. At least two DC judges don’t ask this question, and my count reflects only those hearings where I was personally listening or another journalist who has become aware of my focus on it has noted it. Plus, there may be reasons why people with less education plead guilty earlier, such as that more of them make up those charged with misdemeanor trespassing. But even Brandon Straka, one of the leaders of the larger Trump movement, described that he went through 12th grade and then got a vocational degree at his change of plea.

January 6 defendants seem disproportionately white and rural, but they also appear to be less educated than the country as a whole, even those who’ve had a good deal of financial success.

I raise all that as background to the sentencing memo for Jack Griffith submitted overnight by Heather Shaner, the same defense attorney who convinced Anna Morgan-Lloyd to do some book reports before sentencing (after which Morgan-Lloyd went straight to Fox News to disclaim her stated remorse).

Shaner doesn’t really address the government’s request for a three month jail term.

Griffith pled guilty to one count of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(G): Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Building. As explained below, a custodial sentence is appropriate in this case because Griffith committed his January 6th crime in a manner that trivialized the severity  of the chaotic and dangerous attack, and his later self-promotion and commentary about his participation in the riot demonstrates continued pride in his actions. Griffith had many opportunities to remove himself from the disorder of January 6th but was all too happy to continue his participation. Following his arrest, his casual attitude toward these criminal proceedings demonstrated a lack of respect for this Court—worrying only that he did not want to appear too “cocky” that it was all going to go well for him. By minimizing the seriousness of his conduct, Griffith fails to recognize the harm he caused to his country, the law enforcement officers who were trying to defend it, and others who were working at the Capitol to carry out a Constitutionally mandated process for the peaceful transfer of power

Instead, Shaner focused on what the January 6 riot was, describing it as a coup attempt fomented by people who deliberately manipulated people online.

What occurred on January 6, 2021 was not a naturally developed political protest. It was, I believe, a coup attempt–fomented intentionally by right wing actors who used data mining and psychological manipulation. Vulnerable individuals were identified and persuaded through the internet that it was their patriotic duty to come to Washington to support Trump. In Washington, they were emboldened and ushered down the avenue to “Stop the Steal” and to storm the Capitol.

It is fitting and appropriate to arrest those who participated in the attempted coup. The difficult question is what is the appropriate sanction for a pawn who personally did no physical damage nor assaulted law enforcement– but nonetheless participated in the riot. As Fiona Hill recently stated the “main threats” to democracy come from right-wing actors who are deliberately undermining faith in the “integrity of the election system” and “calling for violence against fellow Americans.” Among the thousands who came to Washington in January and have since been arrested– few among the arrested are the people described by Ambassador Hill. Of the several individuals I have been appointed to represent—none are informed, intentional political actors. Four of the individuals I represent are very young—were heavily reliant on the internet—were uniformed and misinformed. Two individuals suffer from diagnosed mental diseases. The balance of individuals I have come to know and to respect are vulnerable, politically unsophisticated individuals, who are truly confounded by what is happening in our country. Good people with no criminal history—our neighbors– who were fed cynical and dangerous misinformation which destroyed their faith in the integrity of the election system. People who wrongly believed they could save America.

I think Shaner’s description of the event is sound. But I’m not sure she, or anyone, knows the answer to her question: What we do about pawns mobilized for a coup attempt, particularly in the absence of any accountability (yet) for the more powerful coup plotters.

Shaner argues that probation is appropriate for Griffith for two reasons. First, to avoid making a martyr of him.

We should not make pariahs or martyrs of these men and women.

But also to provide a period in which more education can occur.

To save our Union we must be wise. We must be compassionate. We must listen. We must provide the opportunity for the approximately 550 charged misdemeanants to receive more education, and to encourage each of them to study history and to gain civic literacy. Only knowledge—truth based on facts– can foster change. At this critical moment of civil discord and domestic contention –if it is still possible to create a more perfect Union –it must be through education. We cannot force people to learn. But during Probation, we can provide the impetus and the opportunity of continuing education.

This is an argument not about Jack Griffith (and because she’s pitching this to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who asked with this defendant why DOJ hadn’t charged him more aggressively, it’s unlikely to work). It’s an argument about what the path forward needs to be.

Few people besides Shaner think probation can accomplish what she envisions here (though a three year term of probation will keep defendants supervised and prohibited from owning guns through the next Presidential election). Indeed, the two judges imposing most disparate sentences for trespassers so far, Tanya Chutkan (who has sentenced two trespassers, including Anna Morgan-Lloyd’s buddy, Dona Bissey, to jail terms in the last week), and Trevor McFadden (who has sentenced defendants to far shorter terms of probation than the government asked for, though with extra on top) have come out against probation for these defendants. Chutkan believes Probation is simply too overtaxed to deal with the influx of all these trespassers. McFadden seems to believe what he sees as a debt to society can better be paid through a fine (he imposed the only fine thus far on Danielle Doyle) or community service (which he imposed on Eliel Rosa); McFadden also believes that January 6 defendants are being treated more harshly than other rioters.

Meanwhile, in the case of Robert Reeder, who was first charged with trespassing then, at the last minute, discovered to have assaulted a cop and downplayed that to the FBI, got sentenced to just three months in jail by Thomas Hogan, rather than the six months prosecutors requested rather than charging him with that assault.

I don’t know the answer to Shaner’s question. And I badly wish that Prettyman Courthouse were fully open so I could assume that judges were hashing this out over lunch in their judge’s lunchroom. I know that there are a significant portion of defendants who really were just engaged in the kind of civil disobedience I don’t want criminalized. Though I also know that as DOJ has pushed to move through the misdemeanors and accepted downward pleas from those charged more seriously for a variety of reasons, it has fostered seeming inequities among the growing group of trespassers being sentenced.

Whether or not Shaner is right about Griffith, she’s right about what happened: Coup plotters used conspiracy theories to mobilize thousands, as if in a cult, to storm the Capitol. We need deprogramming as much as we need jail time. And our criminal justice system is probably ill-suited to provide either.

117 replies
  1. Zirc says:

    “But during Probation, we can provide the impetus and the opportunity of continuing education.”

    I come down on the harsher side of the punishment equation. Jail has books and provides the time to read them. Yes, these folks were less educated, less informed, and manipulated, but there are millions of less educated, less informed, manipulated people in this country who are in jail right now precisely because they find themselves in situations they don’t understand and can’t escape. And there are millions who didn’t crash through the doors of the Capitol, who didn’t smash windows, didn’t smear feces, and didn’t attack officers. We can only punish the rioters for the crimes for which they are officially convicted, but the punishment they do receive should have some sting. Fines and probation alone don’t sting enough.

    As for what McFadden believes and does, even though I try to follow Dwight Eisenhower’s advice, in this case I disobey Ike and question McFadden’s motives.


  2. gnokgnoh says:

    My strongest reaction is to the concern that we shouldn’t criminalize civil disobedience. Civil disobedience likely has many definitions, but civil and non-violent are core principles. Protesting and marching without permits is a good example. Having trouble connecting that to the insurrection or even prosecutorial overreach.

    • Peterr says:

      Civil disobedience is a deliberate violation of the law, in order to force society to confront something they would rather not look at. Some of these actions are non-violent, while others are incredibly violent, and this difference makes all the difference. When Bull Connor pointed the fire hoses and sicced the dogs on non-violent African American children, it amplified the civil disobedience in the eyes of the world, making clear that it was both the law and the enforcement of it that was unjust.

      In this case, I think the “non-violence” part of the equation is what everyone, the judges included, is wrestling with. This was not a non-violent protest.

      • James Joyce says:

        “When Bull Connor pointed the fire hoses and sicced the dogs on non-violent African American children, it amplified the civil disobedience in the eyes of the world, making clear that it was both the law and the enforcement of it that was unjust.”

        “In this case, I think the “non-violence” part of the equation is what everyone, the judges included, is wrestling with. This was not a non-violent protest.”

        “When Nuremberg Laws were implemented in Germany, Laws which once protected Germans of Jewish Faith, stripped under the color of illegal law, the dogs were “sicced” after all those who did not comply. If you did not comply then, you were shot.

        At least Germany has not forgotten how a coup was realized and what really Happened???

        How “they” made it all up after “they” attacked their own parliament, called Reichstag.

        That’s what happens when you can’t win on the merits.

        You get violent..


        The record is clear..

        • dannyboy says:


          In addition, using your analogy, just asking the question: “What we do about pawns mobilized for a coup attempt, particularly in the absence of any accountability (yet) for the more powerful coup plotters” assumes that “I was Just Following Orders” is defense enough.

      • gnokgnoh says:

        While Griffith was charged with Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Building, intent is everything. In Shaner’s own words, “It was, I believe, a coup attempt–fomented intentionally by right wing actors who used data mining and psychological manipulation.” Shaner understands that this was not just a protest or civil disobedience, but a coup-attempt; maybe not the fomenter, but the fomented. Why does insurrection have to be violent to be charged? Griffith is not a patsy.

        • bmaz says:

          Violence is not a required element, either to “insurrection” (18 USC §2383) or seditious conspiracy (18 USC §2384). Funny that you mentioned intent early in your comment, and yet don’t seem to grok how hard that would be to prove on these charges.

  3. Zinsky says:

    Ms. Wheeler – thanks for the ad hoc analysis of the educational attainment levels of the Jan. 6th guilty plea defendants. I suspect, all other things being equal, a higher level of educational attainment may make you less susceptible to propaganda, but not always so. Another data point that I would like someone to look at is the voting record of Jan. 6th defendants – did they vote in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections at all? What kind of person storms the U.S. Capitol to protest presumed “election fraud”, yet didn’t bother to vote in the election under question?

    Also, thanks for sharing Heather Shaner’s letter – it contained a lot of wisdom.

    • Zirc says:

      “I suspect, all other things being equal, a higher level of educational attainment may make you less susceptible to propaganda, but not always so.”

      I tend to think this too, but having seen what right-wing senators, representatives, state delegates, judges, and SCOTUS justices say, write, and seem to believe, I have decided that limiting oneself to a steady diet of news sources and opinions that come from one side of the political divide makes one susceptible to propaganda no matter how much education one has.

      I write the above with a certain sneering superiority which I have to reign in. My left-leaning politics could make me susceptible to being sucked into the same kind of vortex. My experience suggests, however, that the left is far more self critical and suspicious of “news” that backs up a left-leaning point of view. At this particular point in history, my side of the aisle seems to be more apt to question rather than blindly accept — though I have to test that proposition constantly.


      • Bobby Gladd says:

        “Why do humans ‘reason’?”

        To WIN the argument. Should truth happen along the way, so much the better.

        e.g., Sperber & Mercier, on the evolutionary “adaptive utility” of “reasoning.” Basically a “pen is mightier than the sword” riff.

        Believing is Seeing.

      • Leoghann says:

        No amount of education prevents an infection of greed and lust for power, or a natural tendency to gravitate toward manipulation of those who are susceptible to being manipulated for selfish reasons. Ted Cruz has a high-powered Ivy League education, and wrote at least one dissertation on American Constitutional law. Louie Gohmert is a former member of a state court of criminal appeals, as well as the Texas Supreme Court, and used to have a reputation as an intellectual expert on the law. Many of these people are not dumb–they’ve just renounced all personal decency and morality.

        • dannyboy says:

          But digging in, we find Cruz attended Harvard Law and Gohmert never left Texas for all his schooling. Different MOs, but…

          (full disclosure: I was schooled in nyc. Subway Schools.

    • emptywheel says:

      Note that a number of the more serious defendants may not be able to vote bc of past criminal records (depending on the state).

  4. Robert N Eckert says:

    We should definitely make pariahs and martyrs of these people.
    The response to an attempt to destroy our democratic republic has been unbelievably feeble. Our judiciary system guards the rule of law with all the fortitude of the Afghan army. Our entire government could disappear in 11 days with no-one defending it.

      • RWood says:

        Agree that it’s working, but I have to marvel at how those who work within the system fail to factor in the time it takes to get things done and how that is perceived by the average Joe who is not familiar with the process.

        Not saying that the docket should adjust its pace to fit outside events, such as a pending election, but it’s hard for Joe Public to swallow the “everything is fine” line when he sees Trump still walking around a free man ten months past the event. To him, it looks like he “got away with it”, which they interpret as the system is broken.

        • bmaz says:

          Part of that is the difference between the state and federal court systems. Most people interact only with state and local criminal courts, which have shorter and more truncated timeframes. For instance, here the standard timeframe is 30 days. You enter a plea today, your sentencing will generally be set in 30 days. You have a pre-trial hearing today, your next status conference will be in 30 days.

          Those timeframes are far different, and longer, in federal court and always have been. Enter a plea today and you probably get sentenced in January. That is not just for the 1/6 defendants, it is standard.

          • RWood says:

            I think trump fatigue is playing into it as well. Every article people see is a repeat of “Trump did/said this! Read and be outraged!”

            They’re already outraged, have been for years, and they’ll hopefully remain that way up until the 2022 elections. But that outrage is now being split into two channels; What trump said/did and the lack of any consequences being handed down by the justice system. It’ll take a perp walk with trump in cuffs, hopefully leading a long line of his henchmen, for them to believe the system is working.

          • RWood says:

            You can read the frustration levels in the comments section of this WaPo article.

            “What can happen to the Trump advisers who are ignoring the Jan. 6 subpoenas?”

            Based on what the Joe Publics there are saying; nothing.

        • P J Evans says:

          I think some of it is the media really aren’t covering this. They aren’t talking about how much of the federal court system is being taken up by the 1/6 people, and how much time each hearing takes. They’re also not reporting on the differences between county/state courts and jails and federal courts/jails. (A lot of people seem to think that 3 months in federal prison means they’ll get out in 6 or 8 weeks.)

          • earthworm says:

            with respect to media and ways of covering 1/6: one wishes the phrase “attempted coup” or “Trump’s attempted coup” were put in play more often, skirting, of course, the libel issue.

            • dannyboy says:

              I’ve read so much News Propaganda, that I’m almost convinced that this murderous coup was really just another riot.

              But I know better.

      • Bill Crowder says:

        Really? It seems to come down to how one defines “system.” Yes, the legal system is functioning the way it is designed. Once one steps outside our legal system though, the broader idea of system, our entire American societal network, sure seems to be in rough shape. 74 million Trump voters. Majority of Republicans believing the election was stolen. Increasing white nationalism. Tucker Carlson and his acolytes. Trump trains. And so on.

        Arguing that the system is working fine is, in my mind, a variation of arranging the deck chairs.

        Maybe my perspective is colored by the area in which I live. Lots of heavily armed people who are very angry and want to do something about it. And are serious about that.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, really. I cannot account for the 74 million Trump voters, but that, too, is the “system” we call democracy. As to the justice “system” it is working. It is cheap and easy to carp about it not being fast enough or sufficient enough commenting on a blog. I was in a very large superior court yesterday, and there were probably seventy divisions up and doing what they are supposed to be doing.

          • vvv says:

            Somewhat relevant – somewhat OT – from what I know about here the criminal law system has been and is functioning pretty well, the civil law system not so much.

            A motion I filed in the first week of May to appear and plead in a dissolution of marriage case was heard *today*, status set mid-December. I know Covid is a big factor, but more and more is seeming to also be an excuse for, at best, inefficiency.

            Edit: Hmm, perhaps more OT than I originally thought … still, I feel better for having babbled it.

            • bmaz says:

              Naw, that is totally relevant. I was mostly talking about criminal, which has mostly plugged along. I do think the civil is lagging more from the Covid here too.

            • Leoghann says:

              I couldn’t agree with you more about companies, courts, and others who simply use the pandemic as excuses for their lazy responses and corporate neglect. And all the while, numerous friends and acquaintances who have been working from home for the past eighteen months say they’ve been more productive than ever.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, all things considered, it really is. And the people carping about “how long the 1/6 cases are taking” really don’t know shit about federal criminal law or big complex conspiracy cases.

  5. Ravenclaw says:

    Yes, this is an important question, given how many of the rioters/insurgents were basically “useful idiots.” Personally I would lean toward suspended sentences with lengthy probation with a requirement of pursuing civics education from an approved source such that failure to complete said education satisfactorily would trigger jail time. But there’s plenty of room for debate there.

    On another note, Shaner sounds like an effective defense attorney even if she has a hard time getting traction with Judge Howell. But if her approach starts being invoked more widely there will be lots of push-back from the extreme right-wing figures who supported the attempted coup. Which will be interesting to watch if it plays out in public. Or if Shaner and like-minded lawyers quietly abandon their position under threat.

  6. RWood says:

    “We need deprogramming as much as we need jail time.”

    I’ve been up against fanatics of all kinds in my lifetime and the only thing I’ve seen work is a harsh wake-up call followed by the re-education/deprogramming you mention here.

    We’re talking about changing someone’s mindset, one that’s been programmed over years of indoctrination, and that’ll never happen until they have been locked out of their comfort zone for an extended period. Based on that I say jail time is required until they have their epiphany, then the deprogramming can commence. But the jail time always has to come first.

    • emptywheel says:

      Interesting perspective. I’m not sure I agree–I think some got out of their comfort zone by being shunned in their communities.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Dr. EW, you wrote above that “Coup plotters used conspiracy theories to mobilize thousands, as if in a cult, to storm the Capitol.” This post made me think of Jacob Chansley’s lawyer describing his client’s attraction to Trump in the terms of obsessive love–or, I would say, a fully programmed cult member.

        Like drug addicts forced to go straight by incarceration, these cultists need help with withdrawal. I don’t know if jail is the answer, but some form of deprogramming must occur immediately post-sentencing, or else the disinformation deathstar will just exert its gravitational field again.

      • vvv says:

        I just read about a hair-dresser insurrectionist complaining about losing business, having to move hers to a lesser location, being cursed at, verbally abused in public …

        I will add that I would certainly shun them in a social context.

        • Leoghann says:

          That insurrectionist’s traveling partner (I guess the term “fall partner” is too crass for this venue) also claimed great social damage and deep regret in court, only to go on FauxNuze the day after her sentence to probation to laugh at the DOJ for being fools and endorse a few more conspiracy theories. She claimed to be a changed person. Yeahrite.

  7. bmaz says:

    Asking about the level of education is not necessarily a standard inquiry for accepting a plea. Nor should it be, unless the court suspects a defendant is too mentally infirm to be knowingly and willingly allocuting and accepting.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Criminal gangs often use cut-outs. They do it, in part, to obstruct evidence of their leaders’ role in the commission of crimes and, hence, to avoid liability. That does not mean that willing participants do not deserve punishment for their own roles. But it would be a perverse injustice not to use all available means to investigate and prosecute the instigators of those crimes, especially where, as here, their aim was and is to destroy the foundations of the state.

  9. Badger Robert says:

    Good advocacy. But did the defendant say anything like that? The court has heard many fine arguments, but the arguments are not evidence.
    I would give him 3 months, but suspend all but one month pending completion of probation.
    I still think the US interest is in getting as many guilty pleas as possible.
    Punishing the victims of manipulation doesn’t punish the perpetrators who planned and financed the riot.

    • Lady4Real says:

      As long as those 30 days in jail come with a lifetime ban on owning a lethal weapon. Then, and only then, am I okay with just some jail time for some of the nonviolent insurrectionists.

      • bmaz says:

        Sorry, if it is a misdemeanor, and not domestic violence related, there is unlikely to be any prohibition against possessing weapons once probation is completed.

        • YancyFaith says:

          Dumb question from a non-lawyer who only took business law classes:
          If a person is charged with a felony (the defn of which I think I was taught was an crime that could result in a sentence of more than 365 days,) but is ultimately sentenced to or serves less than 365 days, are they considered a felon?
          Sorry if the question is dumb, and thank you in advance for any insight.

    • dannyboy says:

      “Punishing the victims of manipulation doesn’t punish the perpetrators who planned and financed the riot.”

      But it does serve as a deterrent.

  10. Cotty Chubb says:

    “uniformed and misinformed” — uninformed, more likely

    It comes as no surprise you were valedictorian; me, I dropped out of Stanford in 1971 a year short of graduation. Oops.

    Thanks for all you do.

  11. JamesJoyce says:

    This is a great point.

    “Punishing the victims of manipulation doesn’t punish the perpetrators who planned and financed the riot.”

    After Versailles, the German People were punished for the actions of those leaders and politicians with demonstrated propensity for war.

    This led to WWII for “Dysfunction” using massive manipulation, after fire, the decree and then law. conned intelligent people, John Roberts

    At war’s end many germans were complete victims manipulated by the master to act against their own self interest, conditioned by a whack job’s deceitful propaganda.

    Deja Vu..

    In 1933 it was all Big Lies..
    as in 2021 it all Big Lies, again.

    There was no voter fraud in 2020.

    There was no Jewish Problem in Germany in 1933. It was all a Big Lie.

    For those who engaged in Trial by Combat, the true believer, no quarter.

    For the misguided and played who did not act violent and did not destroy property outside the Capitol they are not criminals at all.

    They were exercising first amendment rights to express dissent, even if incorrect.

    Horst Wessel was no “Martyr.” Neither is Ashli Babbitt, a martyr.

    Sad truth is both live’s lost, are victims of “Big Lies.”

    Their own violent actions motivated by lies cost both of them their own lives as well as the the lives of Capitol Police lost by a
    violent attack?

    So why did F Company Army Rangers Climb Pointe du Hoc?

    To have a picnic with Joseph and Magda Goebbels.

    America needs a booster alright.

    The “Benito Booster Shot,” along with another Pill to take along with all the other pills.

    Deja Vu Mother..

  12. elcajon64 says:

    “Vulnerable individuals were identified and persuaded through the internet that it was their patriotic duty to come to Washington to support Trump. In Washington, they were emboldened and ushered down the avenue to “Stop the Steal” and to storm the Capitol.”

    Is there any consideration that some other individuals may or may not be found responsible – at a later date – for encouraging/persuading the vulnerable individuals being sentenced now?

    • dannyboy says:

      My criminal defense attorney friend always relays how many time he uses the “vulnerable individual” defense.

      His clients are all organized crime members.

  13. Alan K says:

    I wonder if (when?) the actors responsible for Jan 6 come to trial:
    — does the accumulated damage (years in prison) done to the lives of the vulnerable figure in the trials or sentencing?

      • dannyboy says:

        “In sentencing, of course…[bmaz]
        …”the accumulated damage (years in prison) done to the lives of the vulnerable figure in the trials or sentencing” [Alan K]

        Get The Bosses.

        • bmaz says:

          Screw you and your “bosses” demand. That is NOT how prosecutors work complex conspiracy cases. You don’t know anything about this. And stop spamming our threads with every little micro point that floats through your head. Not every comment by anybody else demands your instant feedback. Stop that.

          • dannyboy says:

            Funnily, you have made more comments than I. Of course, it is always easier to criticize the commenters than add to the discussion.

            Abuse Moderation much?

            [Welcome back to emptywheel. You’ve made 20 comments inside 5 hours out of a total 42 in your history as community member ‘dannyboy’ since early 2019. Nearly all of your comments today are wisecracks and not adding new content to expand on topic. We’ve had a recent rash of thread DDoSing consisting of higher volume, low quality comments and your contributions today fit that mold. Slow your roll. Oh, and bashing moderation isn’t acceptable. /~Rayne]

  14. Hoping4Better_Times says:

    Heather Shaner has termed Jan 6 defendants as “pawns.” If that is true, who is the Chess Master?
    Heather Shaner believes education is the cure for Jan 6 defendants.
    Ask the Uyghurs about their re-education camps in China.
    Watch Anna Morgan-Lloyd’s interview on Faux News after Shaner educated her.

    Some have called the Jan 6 defendants “political prisoners.”
    Some have termed the Jan 6 rioters (insurrectionists?) “tourists” just walking through the Capital.
    And trump called them “patriots.” It will take a long time for the DC court to wade through 600 plus defendants.

      • dannyboy says:

        I’ll try.

        (1) Identify the Chess Master(s): Is it Bannon?, Giuliani?, Flynn?, Trump?, etc, etc?
        (2) Is reeducation appropriate? A solution?
        (3) Was it (a) an Insurrection, (b) a riot, (c) tourism, or (d) patriotism? I think this will be clear when the Select Committee completes its Investigation.

        • bmaz says:

          You are not trying very hard, so different measures will be designed for you. Or you decide to not be a spammonger jerk. I do not need to “identify” diddly squat for you while you are just being a noisy menace. Your supposed questions are just stupid and rhetorical. We do not need that here. Contribute in earnest or get lost.

          • dannyboy says:

            Hoping4Better_Times laid out 3 Points to which you responded: “Your point is what?, so I expanded those points for you, as you requested.

            • bmaz says:

              Listen jackass, I will not play this game with you. You are a troll, and a spammy troll to boot. Of course I have more comments than you do, I have been here since day one. You have been around for a grand total of 42 comments, over half of which were today. You are spamming and DDOSing our threads. You are done with that.


    With a sample size of N = 96, the results of a one-sample binomial test tell us to reject the null hypothesis that the percentage of college grads is the same for the Jan. 6th offenders (8/96) when compared to the general population (Marcie’s 36%). The likelihood of being wrong (Type I error) is practically non-existent (p = .000). I am more curious as to the effects of being well-read versus not well-read on committing such a crime.

    • Rayne says:

      Marcy did say in paragraph three that this was an unscientific observation.

      Given what we know about the use of psychographic data obtained from Facebook and the negative effects former insider Haugen said negative content has on users, we shouldn’t be asking about just secondary education or as you suggest the perps’ reading. We should be asking what social media they used and what content in particular persuaded them to take action.

      One thing not discussed is the possibility of social media as game, especially with regard to self-identified Qultists. Their level of engagement may be deeper if they are addicted to a RP/LARP game called Qanon. How does education level/reading material and complexity/socio-economic status/exposure to internet or social media platforms affect radicalization through LARPing?

    • Ravenclaw says:

      Educational attainment is an easily obtained proxy for how well-read a person is, how capable they are of exercising critical judgment when confronted with social media posts, etc. Of course it is only a proxy: a fallible indicator. Yes, you will find people lacking formal education who are incredibly well-read and thoughtful (though autodidacts often have peculiarities in their knowledge bases) and people with advanced degrees who seem to have profited little from their academic experiences. But again, it is easily measured and (on a group level) has some validity. The point made by EW (and supported by this back-of-the-envelope significance test) is a good one.

    • Leoghann says:

      Seriously??! Your attempt at using percentages as an appeal to authority may work with a bunch of humanities’ grads. But in the real world, 8/96=1/12=8.3%. That’s a far cry from 36%.


    In layman’s terms, the Jan. 6th rioters are not as educated as the general population. A sample of 96 subjects is enough to statistically confirm this. I agree with Rayne in that it is more about what they read than how educated they are. For any other of my postings, I will be using the name Newromer.

    • Rayne says:

      Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t say it was about what they read. Re-read my comment. Social media requires varying levels of engagement; these folks who took action were motivated to do more than act online. What moved them? Was it something about social media, particularly game-like facets which prompt interaction?

      • Savage Librarian says:

        I think that is a really big part of the issue. After all, Trump enticed followers with the prospect of winning, winning, winning. He gave permission for grifters to crawl out of the woodwork and join him in his White House casino-like enterprise. And all his marks loved the entertainment that they believed enriched their boring lives (like Qanon.) This article encapsulates how gambling works, but I think it applies to many of the insurrectionists too:

        “Gambling is, first and foremost, a form of entertainment. From the bells and whistles of the slot machines to the dazzling colors and shapes of table games, everything is designed to delight you.”

        “Land-based casinos keep the party going with bars and restaurants with live music. If you’re playing online, your excitement is growing bigger whenever you’re being showered with loyalty points.”

        “Casinos, it seems, both land-based and online, have found the cure for boredom.”

        “While gambling has been notoriously associated with addiction, recent studies show that most players are addicted to the feeling of fun that comes with gambling. Medical researchers estimate that only 5 to 8 percent of all gamblers show evidence of addiction. Most of us are there to have a good time.”
        “Winning might not be guaranteed in a casino, but that’s exactly what makes you come back.”


        • Rayne says:

          Oh my. I hadn’t made a connection between casinos and LARP-ing. And now that I think more about it, there’s also a fan component looping in the WWF. Who are the WWF audience?

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Thanks for that, SL. It’s also true that for all the criminalization and accompanying rhetoric, a similarly single-digit percentage of those who use narcotics become addicted.

          Extending the metaphor, that suggests that the rabid rabble rousing on 6 January was the work of the small percentage of Trumpists who remain truly addicted/cult-enclosed. An optimist might speculate that the rest could be recruited back into reality. But that optimist would have to ignore the ongoing and very visible efforts of para-Trumps (Abbott, Tucker, McCarthy, et. alia) to keep them in the folds of paranoia and hyper-reactivity.

  17. LaNita Jones says:

    AP Top News
    Fiona Hill, a nobody to Trump and Putin, saw into them both
    October 11, 2021

    Again, though, she was listening. She was reading Trump like she had read Putin.

    The result is “There Is Nothing for You Here,” her book out last week. Unlike other tell-all authors from the Trump administration, she isn’t obsessed with the scandalous. Much like her measured but riveting testimony in Trump’s first impeachment, the book offers a more sober, and thus perhaps more alarming, portrait of the 45th president.

    If Hill’s tone is restrained, it is damning by a thousand cuts. It lays out how a career devoted to understanding and managing the Russian threat crashed into her revelation that the greatest threat to America comes from within.

    • LaNita Jones says:

      You are here you have found you it is about to begin.

      That is what her book title reminds me of.

    • dannyboy says:

      Fiona Hill understands that you have to get The Bosses.

      Everyone else is replaced…
      …by the thousands standing ready behind them.

  18. Badger Robert says:

    If I was the court, I would be asking about education levels too. Most of these defendants don’t have a lot of money, And less educated were more easily targeted, as pointed out above.
    The judges and the rest of us have to be wondering, who put this together, because these defendants don’t seem to be capable of this sophistication?
    Thanks again to Ms. Wheeler for making us all smarter.

    • Epicurus says:

      I have been in the middle of three violent riots in my life, as an unintended observer and not as a participant in either of the warring sides. One riot involved the most highly of educated individuals and the other two were a mixed bag of highly educated and not so highly educated on both sides. In all three I knew individuals on both sides.

      First observation: The riot itself is spontaneous combustion. It just ignites. Some people are more out front than others and the others tend to follow them. If only one of the rioters is smart and/or experienced and attacks the other side’s weakest point others will follow. One person was the agent that toppled the Berlin Wall. One person was the agent that led the charge on the Bastille. There doesn’t have to be a chess master. It is more like the wolf pack following the alpha wolf. There may have been some pre-intelligence on the part of the rioters about the weakest nodal points of the Capitol Building – this is the internet after all with lots of information and fellow travelers – but more than likely it was just beta wolves following the alpha wolves.

      Second observation: The internet is the conditioner. There is no way to re-condition the rioters – followers or leaders – through jail time or through re-education. If anything the result will be just the opposite of what is desired. One great example happens in France where the jailed Islamic “terrorists” actually become terrorists while in jail. There would be no reinforcement of whatever jail or re-education lessons that may take place after they leave those situations. They will go right back to the internet, get re-conditioned to the situation/beliefs they were in before their sentences, lick their psychic wounds, and coalesce around whatever their grievances are with fellow grievers found so easily on the internet.

      Hatred and intolerance is here to stay.

      Keeping Trump, his messaging, and his band of merry men off the internet is the single most powerful thing anyone can do.

      • Knox Bronson says:

        It wasn’t a riot. I got caught in a couple of riots in Berkeley in the summer of ’68, so I know what you are saying. What happened on January 6 was a planned and coordinated insurrection against our democracy. It only looked like a riot.

        • vvv says:


          “First observation: The riot itself is spontaneous combustion.” Doesn’t seem much spontaneity in packing body armour and bear spray, wearing colored tape and forming “stacks”, using pre-set walkie-talkies and directing points of attack, having coagulated and coordinated in previous days to stash weapons, all the while continuously using language of incitement and violence to each other and as on-site rally cries…

          What came first, the egging on of “Hang Mike Pence”, or the chicken-shit gallows?

    • bmaz says:

      Badger Robert – Why would you? Is somebody more educated more criminally culpable than someone less so? Do you think someone more educated should be sentenced differently than someone less so? Should the criminal justice system discriminate based on education across the board? If so, why? Frankly, absent a question of mental competency, I find this thought repugnant. Stupid is not a mitigating factor, nor smart an aggravating one.

      • Ravenclaw says:

        Could a judge who asks defendants about their educational background simply be trying to ascertain how to speak to them of legal/technical matters? That is, whether to simplify their language use to a level more likely to be understood? That would seem reasonable. But you know far better than I what goes on in a judge’s mind.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I suppose a judge could, but it would really change nothing. If the concern is about the competency of a defendant there are long-standing processes to determine that (i.e. court-appointed evaluations) but this “pawn” argument reads more like a straw man to me.

          Note that if one wants to represent themselves in any court then the court cannot cut any slack about requirements for filings, arguments and other procedural requirements, which is usually why judges tend to discourage the idea. We’ve seen it in the J6 sedition defendants who have tried it against all advice and made things worse for themselves.

  19. LaNita Jones says:

    “Millennials and those who have come on the scene in the last 10 or 15 years who think collaboration and what the intelligence community calls tipping and queuing. That is a tipoff from one agency in the collection to another one that allows her imagery to cover something that the national security agency has collected or human sources on the ground have collected in that there is a view that collaboration, particularly in, and they would be younger to anyone setting up. No, think about in their outside world think that that’s a good thing inside.”

    I wish they would call in David Shedd too so he can explain tipping and queuing after destabilization insurrection capitol and hope a Notice to Attend shows up for Mr. Clark shortly thereafter.

  20. Eureka says:

    Meek Mill’s recent interview, where he talks about the significance of learning chess, immediately came to mind in reading Shaner and this post. Since several commenters, perhaps following Shaner, have pointed to “chess”, note that the sense used here is rather different, the perspective is flipped:

    Mill has used his fame to call attention to the cases of incarcerated people such as Eric Riddick, the Philadelphia man he met at the Chester State Correctional Institution who had served 29 years of a life sentence for murder. He was freed in May after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office found he didn’t get a fair trial.

    “It’s not just about Eric Riddick, it’s about a lot of people in that system who were like me,” Mill said. “I wasn’t supposed to be there.” Riddick “was one of those guys who gave me a lot of information and made sure I didn’t get in trouble. He was somebody I met playing chess.”


    [Mill’s new] album cover painting also shows a chess board.

    The game, Mills says, has taught him “proactive thinking.”

    “I learned to play chess from the older guys in prison,” he says. “Growing up in the hood, you don’t get a chance to think about your Step Two. This was about me learning to think about Step Two and Step Three. If you do this, this can happen. I started using those things in my life.”

    [emphasis added, internal link removed]

    Mill’s first-person-view gets home to Shaner’s point while hosting a raft of inequities (some more shared than might be readily apparent).


    Meek Mill on ‘Expensive Pain’:‘My therapy was making this album’

    • Eureka says:

      …”some more shared than might be readily apparent” —

      … Such as the life-pause of legal trouble providing the space to learn (here, from informal networks in place of, say, beneficent social structures which might have done or facilitated those jobs).

      I’ll leave as a many bouldered koan whether, why, and how carceral versus probationary contexts for such learning might work in different situations. If you read the rest of the article, Mill comes out of this wanting to unite all social groups through (of all ironic things, as it was a source of one of his probation violations which sent him back to prison) bike culture. Compare Shaner client Morgan-Lloyd, who — as Marcy notes — went straight to her peeps at Fox to double-down. Of course Morgan-Lloyd, besides having done her learning pre-sentencing, was on her first go round IIRC. Perhaps this all — the learning — takes several iterations.

      • Eureka says:

        And it should be noted that Mill’s album (cover) features objectifying misogyny and the lionizing of material wealth.

        The limits of one’s chess game are often marked by pivots …

  21. GKJames says:

    Education level as predictor of behavior has always been tricky. After all, Trump (Wharton), Bannon (VA Tech, Harvard MBA), and Miller (Duke) qualify, by the standard measure, as “educated”. To the extent that the lack of formal education is used to mitigate guilt — “I was manipulated because I wasn’t educated enough to know better” — is there a risk that, especially in the Internet age, human agency vanishes? And if that’s to be the new standard, can we at least agree that it should apply across the board, including to those who’ve always been at the mercy of a draconian criminal justice system?

  22. Savage Librarian says:

    My perception of Heather Shaner is that she has taken an approach that is close to 2,000 years old (if not older.) It seems to me that she prefers to live her life and practice her profession as outlined in a notable book. Specifically as it relates to her J6 clients, I think that she takes to heart Luke 12:48.

    “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

    I think her clients are very fortunate to have her represent them. They would be much better off listening to her rather than Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, etc. That’s because Shaner really is on their side. Those Fox News people, not so much.

  23. dannyboy says:

    “McFadden also believes that January 6 defendants are being treated more harshly than other rioters.”

    Yet another Judge who does not understand the nature of the charges.

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