A judge in the US Capitol unrest case issued a stern warning Tuesday to federal prosecutors after former acting federal prosecutor Michael Sherwin hinted in an interview with “60 Minutes” that the government might present sedition charges against members of the far-right group Oath Keepers. who participated in the hand-to-hand combat on January 6.
“No matter how much press attention this case gets, these defendants are entitled to a fair trial,” District Judge Amit Mehta said at a hearing on Tuesday, adding that “this case will not be tried by the media.” .
In the interview that aired Sunday, Sherwin, who previously led the Capitol investigation, told CBS’s Scott Pelley that he believes the evidence in the case “tends to” charges of sedition, a felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years. in prison.
“I think the facts support those charges,” Sherwin told Pelley. “And I think as we move forward, more facts will back that up.” To date, no sedition charges have been brought in the hundreds of Capitol riot cases opened by the federal government since the deadly January 6 attack.
The interview, along with a similar story in the New York Times, prompted Mehta to schedule the Tuesday afternoon hearing, during which she expressed disapproval of Sherwin’s revealing meeting and said she would not hesitate to impose a gag order. , which would mean the The case cannot be discussed at all in public.
“The Department of Justice must understand that these types of public statements can jeopardize the integrity of the criminal case and affect the rights of the accused,” Mehta said.
Representing the government at the hearing, John Crabb, chief of the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office in DC, said that Sherwin did not comply with the rules and procedures of the Department of Justice before conducting the interview and that he was referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the agency. for an investigation into whether he violated department rules.
In accordance with the department’s policy on discussion of pending cases, any communication by Department of Justice staff with the media must be approved in advance by the US attorney.
It was not immediately clear at the hearing what consequences Sherwin could face for the interview. The Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday.
Sherwin resigned from his position as acting federal prosecutor earlier this month and plans to return to the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, CBS reported.
Miniature Credit: (Michael Nigro / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)
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