‘It can happen again’: Judge set to preside over Trump trial delivers her toughest Jan. 6 sentence to date

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U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has handed down her harshest Jan. 6 sentence to date — five-and-a-half years — to Scott Miller, a Maryland man and former Proud Boys leader who assaulted multiple officers in a violent attempt to breach the Capitol.

Chutkan based her sentence, delivered on Friday, in part on Miller’s “aggressive” actions at the Capitol but also on his private writings that called for racial and religious violence against minorities and Jews. She said the evidence of his “violent ideology” — his embrace of Nazism and his purported belief that Washington, D.C., residents should be executed — troubled her despite Miller’s insistence that he had disavowed those beliefs soon after Jan. 6.

Chutkan’s 66-month sentence narrowly edges two 63-month sentences she handed down to Robert Palmer and Mark Ponder, who similarly joined some of the most egregious violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6: the brutal hand-to-hand combat at the mouth of the building’s Lower West Terrace tunnel.

Chutkan, who is in line to preside over the criminal trial of Donald Trump for his bid to subvert the 2020 election, emphasized her belief that the Jan. 6 mob attack was “close to as serious a crisis as this nation has ever faced.” She lauded officers who, though outnumbered and ill-equipped, fought to protect the building.

“They faced horrendous circumstances. They were assaulted, spat on, beaten, kicked, gassed,” Chutkan said. “They are patriots.”

Chutkan also worried that the conditions that caused Jan. 6 still exist.

“It can happen again,” the Obama-appointed judge said. “Extremism is alive and well in this country. Threats of violence continue unabated.”

Miller, who has been jailed since pleading guilty, was joined in court by his family — including a wife who is 20 weeks pregnant with the couple’s first child. His wife, a mental health counselor, told Chutkan she had been working with Miller since Jan. 6 to steer him away from the “disgusting” views and “groupthink” she said led him to Jan. 6. She described his depression and anxiety.

Miller also addressed Chutkan, telling her he had “cut ties” with the Proud Boys and had shed his previous extremist beliefs.

“I want to be a good example for my child,” he said.

Chutkan echoed that sentiment after imposing her sentence, acknowledging the hardship it would cause his wife and future child, “who didn’t ask for any of this.”

“Having a child is a life changing event,” Chutkan said, noting that children “really don’t care about what you did. They just love you.”

She said she hoped Miller’s child would be a clarifying moment in his life and continue him on a path away from violent ideology.

“Every person, she said, “is capable of redemption.”