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Florida Grandmas, Obstructionists, and Fence Shakers: America's New Terrorists
While the GOP sleeps, the Biden Department of Justice and federal judges in D.C. are systematically creating a new list of federal terrorism crimes.
Photo: U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta
U.S District Court Judge Amit Mehta admitted he continues to “struggle with” what happened on January 6.
The Obama appointee made that public confession Wednesday afternoon during the sentencing hearing for Florida resident Connie Meggs. A D.C. jury convicted Meggs, 61, of numerous offenses including obstruction of an official proceeding and interfering with law enforcement related to her conduct on January 6. Meggs traveled to the nation’s capital with her husband, Kelly, a member of the Oath Keepers who is currently serving 12 years in prison for his role in January 6. (Mehta imposed that sentence in May.) She spent less than 20 minutes inside the Capitol, brought no weapon, and assaulted no one.
Nonetheless, Mehta condemned January 6 as a “crime committed against the citizens of the United States.” The four-hour disturbance “altered the social fabric in a way a normal crime does not,” Mehta claimed—which is true just not in the way he thinks. He further insisted the country would have been “far better off if no one had come to Washington” that day.
Despite Meggs losing everything after January 6—including both her parents—and spending 45 days in a Florida jail denied release after her February 2021 arrest followed by 2 1/2 years on home detention wearing an ankle monitor, Judge Mehta was not finished inflicting pain on the grandmother of three. Meggs, often uncontrollably sobbing, read a lengthy letter of apology to the court while angrily blaming her husband for choosing the Oath Keepers over their family. “I’m a good person,” Meggs told Mehta as her son and grandchildren broke down in the gallery. “Please don’t take their mother and grandmother away from them.”
But Mehta, while criticizing the Department of Justice for seeking an “overly punitive” prison sentence of up to ten years, will take Meggs away from her already broken family. Acknowledging her lack of criminal history, devotion to her family, and work in her community, Mehta still insisted she must pay a further price for not understanding the ‘broader context” of her involvement in the events of January 6. “We don’t have January 6, it does not happen, without people like you,” Mehta scolded.
Not only did Mehta order Meggs to serve 15 months in prison, but he also agreed to DOJ’s request to add a “terror” enhancement to her sentence. “[Meggs] committed offenses that were calculated to influence or affect the conduct of the government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct,” assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy wrote in the government’s 62-page sentencing recommendation for Meggs and her co-defendants, which included a 72-year-old man from Ohio and an autistic young man also from Florida. “All five defendants were active participants in the Oath Keepers' conspiracy to prevent, hinder, or delay the certification proceeding, and to use force, intimidation, or threats to prevent members of Congress from discharging their duties during that proceeding.”
Mehta concurred. Connie Meggs, a churchgoing, patriotic grandmother, is now branded a domestic terrorist.
Bogus Charges, Biased Juries, Vengeful Prosecutors, Reckless Judges
It wasn’t the first time Mehta turned nonviolent offenses into federal crimes of terrorism. In fact, the foreign-born former public defender continues to manipulate a vague caveat in U.S. sentencing guidance related to terrorism—which offers a list of specific convictions that qualify—to establish dangerous new ground in the Biden regime’s ongoing war on terror against the Right.
In recent sentences for other members of the Oath Keepers, Mehta has agreed that seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to obstruct Congress fit the definition of so-called “Note 4” in sentencing guidance.
"[I]t is challenging to find that in a case where individuals were convicted of participating in a conspiracy to stop the lawful transfer of power after a United States Presidential election, that they plotted to use force in so doing—it is very hard to not see that as terrorism within the definition certainly at least Note 4,” Mehta said during the May 25 sentencing of Kelly Meggs for convictions on seditious conspiracy and other counts. “That is certainly conduct that is calculated or intended to result in the coercion and intimidation of the government in order to achieve some purpose.”
One must pause to consider the short-term and long-term consequences of Mehta’s rulings. First, nearly every judge on the D.C. District Court including Mehta has allowed DOJ to exploit a post-Enron scandal obstruction statute—1512(c)(2)—to turn hundreds of January 6 protesters into felons. (It also is one count in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment against Donald Trump.)
Mehta has made that dubious law into a crime of terror that could result in up to ten extra years in jail. (1512(c)(2) is punishable by up to 20 years.) Given the precedent set by Mehta, if Trump is convicted of obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct, Smith could seek a similar terror enhancement at sentencing—a request Judge Tanya Chutkan undoubtedly would welcome with open arms.
And prosecutors and judges in other jurisdictions outside of D.C. now have full authority to follow suit.
Not to be outdone, Judge Timothy J. Kelly, the presiding judge in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy case, took Mehta’s cue and ran with it this week. Citing convictions for “aiding and abetting” destruction of government property, Kelly said during the sentencing hearing for Proud Boys leader Joseph Biggs on Thursday morning that his role in shaking part of a temporary metal fence on January 6 “is a crime of terrorism.”
The purpose of rattling the fence—an act in which many others participated and where it’s not even clear Biggs and his co-defendants did indeed contribute to the dismantling of the fence—was to “influence the conduct of government,” Kelly concluded.
Here is what Judge Kelly, a Trump appointee, considers an act of terror. (Biggs is seen with co-defendant Ethan Nordean):
By doing so, Kelly dramatically raised the amount of potential prison time for the Proud Boys. In Biggs’ case, the calculated range was 324 to 405 months. (Kelly imposed a 17-year sentence for Biggs in what can only be described as a sentencing shell game. A more detailed explainer soon.)
Trespassers Are the New Bombers
A few days before Kelly officially gave his judicial imprimatur to the fence-shaking crime of terror, Nicholas Smith, representing Nordean, argued with the judge about the intended use of the terror enhancement.
“[That's] never how the terrorism enhancement has been applied. [What] you see are threatened use of nuclear weapons, biological weapons, destruction at airports, the kinds of events—spectacular events of violence that are—that mark acts of terrorism, particularly international acts of terrorism. And here, what the Government is asking the Court to do is so radical. They're taking an instance of petit property destruction and they're saying that this can be a federal crime of terrorism. If that's true, then any act of protest in the country, if we can fit it within the corners of either relevant conduct or the federal crimes of terrorism statute, becomes a crime of terrorism. The implications of the Government's argument are vast.”
While Smith’s plea fell on deaf ears, Kelly did confront the lead prosecutor about the government equating the dismantling of a temporary fence with “trying to kill people or blowing up a building.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough did his best. “This was an attack on a branch of government,” McCullough argued. “[January 6] is one of the most serious crimes this court can consider.”
McCullough said he can “appreciate the loss of life” involved with legitimate terror attacks, the defendants’ aim was to “intimidate and terrify” members of Congress and the American people.
This comes the same week that Judge Chutkan compared January 6 to 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing.
It’s all so absurd and Stalinesque that one is inclined to laugh. But of course, none of this is funny. Even worse, Republican leaders in Washington and GOP presidential candidates appear completely ignorant—willfully or otherwise—to what’s happening in the banana republic-style environment in the nation’s capital. And by the time these new tools of terror are aimed at them, it will be too late.
In reality, it already is.