- A federal judge said judges prosecuting January 6 cases are receiving "all kinds of threats."
- DC District Judge Reggie Walton made the comments during sentencing for Lori and Thomas Vinson.
- The judge handed down the maximum sentence for both in an effort to deter future violence.
A federal judge is blaming unrepentant Capitol riot defendants for the recent influx of threats targeted toward justices prosecuting January 6 cases.
During a Friday sentencing hearing for Lori and Thomas Vinson, DC District Judge Reggie Walton slammed the ongoing propagation of former President Donald Trump's election lies, saying Capitol riot defendants who are standing by their actions have spurred others who believe the election was "stolen" to harass the dozen or so judges who are overseeing the hundreds of January 6 cases.
"As judges, we're getting all kinds of threats and hostile phone calls when we have these cases before us, because there are unfortunately other people out there who buy in on this proposition, even though there was no proof, that somehow the election was fraudulent," Walton said in court on Friday, according to CNN.
Official audits and election experts have concluded there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and the Department of Homeland Security declared the election the "most secure in American history."
But that hasn't stopped some Trump supporters from continuing to spread dangerous propaganda about US election security, Walton said, which he called a threat to democracy.
"Democracies die, and we've seen it in the past, when the citizens rise up against their government and engage in the type of conduct that happened on January 6," Walton said.
In an effort to deter future insurrection, Walton sentenced both Lori and Thomas Vinson to five years probation and a $5,000 fine - the maximum penalty allowed, as well as the heftiest fine for any Capitol rioter yet, CNN reported. Federal prosecutors had originally asked that Lori receive one month in jail and Thomas get house arrest.
"I want the sentence to hurt," Walton said. "I want people to understand that if you do something like this, it's going to hurt. I know it's a lot of money but hey, that's the consequence that you suffer when you associate yourself with this type of behavior."
The Kentucky couple was arrested in February after several people identified them in photos and videos from inside the Capitol on January 6, according to court documents. Lori Vinson made headlines after giving a broadcast interview in which she boasted that she would "do it again."
"I hope [Jan. 6] is something I remember and say 'I'm glad I was a part of that' 30 years from now," Vinson told a local TV station in Evansville, Indiana. She also said she was "not sorry" for her participation.
The FBI said it used her TV interviews after the insurrection to help build a case against the couple.
"It bothers me that she would try to associate herself with that type of violence... and then she goes on television on two occasions and is proud of what she did, and says she would do it again," Walton said on Friday.
Ahead of sentencing, Lori Vinson tearfully asked the judge for leniency, citing her new job as a nurse and her work helping patients with COVID-19, according to CNN. Her husband, one of the several dozen veterans charged in the riot, acknowledged his wrongdoing.
"I took that oath to the Constitution and I know I broke that oath that day by entering that building and participating in the events of January 6," Thomas Vinson reportedly said. "It's blemish that's going to be on myself, my family for the rest of my life, and the country, and into the history books."