Judge warns DOJ that media interviews could taint Capitol riot case

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A federal judge lambasted the Justice Department on Tuesday, warning that top officials’ comments in recent media interviews threatened to taint the prosecution of some of the most notorious participants in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

In a hastily assembled video conference, District Court Judge Amit Mehta declared he was “surprised, to say the least” by a CBS “60 Minutes” interview with Michael Sherwin, who recently stepped aside as the lead prosecutor in the Capitol attack and as the acting U.S. attorney in Washington.

In the interview aired Sunday, Sherwin said he believed the facts gathered by investigators would support a charge of “seditious conspiracy” against some of the Capitol rioters — a grave, rarely used criminal charge reserved for attempts to overthrow the government or interfere with government activities.

Mehta also referenced a Monday evening article in The New York Times that described internal Justice Department deliberations about seditious conspiracy charges and indicated that top officials believed they were likeliest to be deployed in the case of the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members descended on the capitol on Jan. 6 in an organized, premeditated manner. Ten Oath Keepers have been charged so far, with as many as five more expected to be added to the alleged conspiracy.

“These defendants are entitled to a fair trial, not one that is conducted in the media,” Mehta said as he opened the conference, which included senior supervisors in the U.S. Attorney’s office. “I will not tolerate continued publicity in the media.”

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Detailing the charges facing the Capitol rioters

Scott Pelley speaks with Michael Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who was leading the criminal investigation, the largest in U.S. history, into the assault on the Capitol.

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