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Letter to the Editor: Why not charge treason

Guilty verdicts have been rendered in the first trial of a January 6 insurrectionist.  The convictions included weapons in the Capitol, and interfering with justice by threatening to kill his son for opposing him.  Some on the angry Left believe the charge should be treason.  Some on the angry Right feel that the less than treason charges mean the case against the rioters is weak.  Actually, by long tradition, the US has used law to temper political passion.

John Adams defended the British soldiers tried for the Boston Massacre and, as President, pardoned those charged with Fries Rebellion.  George Washington gave pardon for the Whiskey Rebellion.  James Wilson spent the Revolution in peril of being hanged by the British, but later drafted the narrow standard for treason in the Constitution.  Even Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was ultimately released, though held for two years.

If those acts were given such great leniency, why not the 1-6 insurrection?  Because it was a worse offense against the Constitution.  Even the Confederates did not seek to overthrow the federal government.  Many speak of an “attack on the Capitol.”  Careful attention to the speech that sent them shows that the target was Congress.  Specific individuals were named as targets.  All Democrats were to be expelled.  Any Republican not supporting the coup would be dismissed as “weak.”

The result would have been a “rump” legislature, like those that brought the onset of oppression in the English, French, and Russian Revolutions.  Whatever the legal technicalities, this organized attack on one of the three branches of government fits any common sense reading of the constitutional standard for treason – an overt act of war against the United States.  Criminal conviction for 1-6 is all the leniency they deserve.

Scott Corey


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