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Judge blames Jan. 6 on Trump, tells rioter he was 'a pawn'

A federal judge told a Jan. 6 defendant, "You were a pawn in a game directed and played by people who should know better."

Over the course of 2021, there have been hundreds of arrests and dozens of trials involving defendants accused of attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6. In many instances, judges have condemned the seriousness of the insurrectionist violence in no uncertain terms, while taking rioters to task for participating in an attack against our democracy.

What we haven't heard are judges, as part of these legal proceedings, admonishing the former president who helped incite the violence.

Late last week, a Donald Trump supporter named John Lolos conceded in court that he entered the Capitol through a broken window on Jan. 6, though he emphasized that he didn't personally break the window. The defendant, against the advice of counsel, also told the judge about the many conspiracy theories he'd seen online about the 2020 election, which he apparently still believed as of Friday.

Lolos' misguided monologue did not work: He was sentenced to two weeks in prison. But just as notable was the degree to which the judge in the case argued that the rioters weren't the only ones responsible for the attack. Politico reported:

A federal judge on Friday squarely placed the blame for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on Donald Trump, suggesting that the former president's role in seeding lies about the 2020 election — and the effect it had on his followers — has been an underappreciated part of the entire episode. Judge Amit Mehta issued his commentary as he delivered a 14-day jail sentence to Jan. 6 rioter John Lolos — a sentence Mehta said he shortened in part to reflect the fact that Lolos was responding to Trump's call.

The federal judge made the case that Lolos and others who participated in the Capitol assault "were called to Washington, D.C., by an elected official, prompted to walk to the Capitol by an elected official."

Mehta added, "People like Mr. Lolos were told lies, told falsehoods, told our election was stolen when it clearly was not. We're here today deciding whether Mr. Lolos should spend 30 days in jail when those who created the conditions that led to Mr. Lolos' conduct, led to the events of Jan. 6 [haven't been] held to account for their actions and their word."

Speaking directly to the defendant, the judge continued, "In a sense, Mr. Lolos, I think you were a pawn. You were a pawn in a game directed and played by people who should know better. I think that mitigates your conduct."

As Politico's report added, Mehta wondered aloud about why other judges haven't focused more on the former president and the degree to which he poisoned the minds of the rioters.

"Once you hear people who should know better tell you that an election was stolen and they say it loudly enough, frequently enough," Mehta said, "it's not surprising that people will believe it."