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Judge asks why DOJ isn’t seeking more money from US Capitol rioters

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — During a plea hearing on Monday, the chief judge in DC’s federal court questioned the Justice Department’s approach to have US Capitol rioters pay the government small portions of the $1.5 million in damage done to the Capitol building by the mob, while the total cost of the riot to American taxpayers amounts to 300 times more.

“Where we have Congress appropriating all this money due directly to the events on January 6, I have found the damage amount of less than $1.5 million, when all of us American taxpayers are about to foot the bill for close to half a billion dollars, a little bit surprising,” said Chief Judge Beryl Howell.

“I’m accustomed to the government being fairly aggressive” in seeking restitution, Howell added.

The defendant who pleaded guilty during Monday’s hearing, Glenn Wes Lee Croy, agreed to pay $500 in restitution, which has become typical for defendants pleading to misdemeanors. The few rioters who have pleaded guilty to felony charges have each agreed to pay $2,000 in restitution.

As the Justice Department ramps up efforts to secure plea deals in the more than 560 federal cases related to the January 6 insurrection, according to CNN’s latest tally, Howell has repeatedly questioned whether prosecutors are doing enough to deter similar attacks in the future, and whether the misdemeanor plea deals are appropriately addressing the severity of damage done that day.

So far, 34 people have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the riot.

Federal prosecutors say that Croy bragged to an associate on social media that “I was there” on January 6, and shared photos of himself inside the Capitol. He faces a potential maximum of six months in jail, though he may be ordered to serve much less, or even no jail time, when he is sentenced.

Prosecutors said they will explain why they have limited restitution to $1.5 million before Croy is sentenced in October.

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