Sorry, not sorry: Some Jan. 6 rioters change tune after apology
WASHINGTON >> Appearing before a federal judge after pleading guilty to a felony charge in the deadly Capitol riot, former West Virginia lawmaker Derrick Evans expressed remorse for letting down his family and his community, saying he made a “crucial mistake.”
Less than a year later, Evans is portraying himself as a victim of a politically motivated prosecution as he runs to serve in the same building he stormed on Jan. 6, 2021. Evans is now calling the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 prosecutions a “miscarriage of justice” and describes himself on twitter as a “J6 Patriot.”
“Some ppl have said I need to apologize and condemn #J6 if I want to win my election as the media will attack me,” he tweeted recently after announcing his bid for a U.S. House seat in 2024. “I will not compromise my values or beliefs. That’s what politicians do. We need Patriots not politicians.”
Evans joins a series of Jan. 6 defendants who — when up against possible prison time in court — have expressed regret for joining the pro-Trump mob that rattled the foundations of American democracy only to strike a different tone or downplay the riot after receiving their punishment.
The very first Jan. 6 defendant to be sentenced apologized in court and then went on Fox News Channel shortly after and seemed to minimize the riot. Another defendant who called Jan. 6 “horrifying and disgusting” later donned an orange jumpsuit to play the part of a distraught prisoner in a bizarre tribute to imprisoned Capitol rioters during a conservative conference.
Some defendants have drawn ire from judges or the Justice Department for their inconsistent comments. But there’s not much the legal system can do for an adjudicated defendant. And because some conservatives hold up Jan. 6 defendants as martyrs, there’s a political and possibly financial incentive for them to change their tune.
It could push judges to impose stronger punishments for rioters who haven’t yet made it to the end of their criminal cases. Even before Evans’ sentencing, the judge who heard his case began questioning the sincerity of rioters’ apologies after he felt duped by another defendant, saying he was “all too familiar with crocodile tears.”
In some cases, judges have questioned whether they should undo defendants’ convictions or plea deals after they made statements in public that appeared to go against what they said in court. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ordered an Illinois man convicted this week to explain why the judge shouldn’t vacate his conviction after he agreed in court that he participated in the riot and then told a newspaper he didn’t actually think he committed the crimes with which he was charged.