Judge Trevor McFadden on Tuesday became the second judge in two weeks to reject the comparisons, which are popular in right-wing circles, after his colleague in Washington, DC’s, federal court Carl Nichols made a similar ruling last week.
McFadden and Nichols both said the US Capitol riot defendants’ arguments didn’t have enough evidence to show discrimination.
McFadden refused Judd’s request on Tuesday, explaining that the Portland riots didn’t have the same severe consequences as the attempted coup on January 6.
“Although both Portland and January 6 rioters attacked federal buildings, the Portland defendants primarily attacked at night, meaning that they raged against a largely vacant courthouse,” McFadden wrote. “In contrast, the January 6 rioters attacked the Capitol in broad daylight. And many entered it. … Their actions endangered hundreds of federal officials in the Capitol complex. Members of Congress cowered under chairs while staffers blockaded themselves in offices, fearing physical attacks from the rioters.”
Nichols, weighing the case against another January 6 defendant, Garrett Miller, said on December 21 that the unrest in the two cities had “obvious differences” and the disruptions put hundreds of government officials at risk.
“The Portland rioters’ conduct, while obviously serious, did not target a proceeding prescribed by the Constitution and established to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” Nichols wrote. “Nor did the Portland rioters, unlike those who assailed America’s Capitol in 2021, make it past the buildings’ outer defenses.”
McFadden did criticize the Justice Department for dropping cases against the rioters in Oregon — decisions that prosecutors made during both the Trump and Biden administrations, he noted — calling the moves “suspicious.”
McFadden’s sharp words for the Justice Department are likely to fuel right-wing criticism of the aggressive approach that law enforcement has taken toward hundreds of January 6 defendants, many of whom are now casting themselves as political martyrs.