The Bakersfield Californian
Jan. 6 rioters are raking in thousands of dollars in donations. Now the US is coming after their haul
Less than two months after he pleaded guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol, Texas resident Daniel Goodwyn appeared on Tucker Carlson’s then-Fox News show and promoted a website where supporters could donate money to Goodwyn and other rioters whom the site called “political prisoners.”
The Justice Department now wants Goodwyn to give up more than $25,000 he raised — a clawback that is part of a growing effort by the government to prevent rioters from being able to personally profit from participating in the attack that shook the foundations of American democracy.
An Associated Press review of court records shows that prosecutors in the more than 1,000 criminal cases from Jan. 6, 2021, are increasingly asking judges to impose fines on top of prison sentences to offset donations from supporters of the Capitol rioters.
Dozens of defendants have set up online fundraising appeals for help with legal fees, and prosecutors acknowledge there’s nothing wrong with asking for help for attorney expenses. But the Justice Department has, in some cases, questioned where the money is really going because many of those charged have had government-funded legal representation.
Most of the fundraising efforts appear on GiveSendGo, which bills itself as “The #1 Free Christian Fundraising Site” and has become a haven for Jan. 6 defendants barred from using mainstream crowdfunding sites, including GoFundMe, to raise money. The rioters often proclaim their innocence and portray themselves as victims of government oppression, even as they cut deals to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.
Their fundraising success suggests that many people in the United States still view Jan. 6 rioters as patriots and cling to the baseless belief that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. The former president himself has fueled that idea, pledging to pardon rioters if he is elected.
Markus Maly, a Virginia man scheduled to be sentenced next month for assaulting police at the Capitol, raised more than $16,000 from an online campaign that described him as a “January 6 P.O.W.” and asked for money for his family. Prosecutors have requested a $16,000plus fine, noting that Maly had a public defender and did not owe any legal fees.
“He should not be able to use his own notoriety gained in the commission of his crimes to ‘capitalize’ on his participation in the Capitol breach in this way,” a prosecutor wrote in court papers.
So far this year, prosecutors have sought more than $390,000 in fines against at least 21 riot defendants, in amounts ranging from $450 to more than $71,000, according to the AP’s tally.
Judges have imposed at least $124,127 in fines against 33 riot defendants this year. In the previous two years, judges ordered more than 100 riot defendants to collectively pay more than $240,000 in fines.
Separately, judges have ordered hundreds of convicted rioters to pay more than $524,000 in restitution to the government to cover more than $2.8 million in damage to the Capitol and other Jan. 6-related expenses.
More rioters facing the most serious charges and longest prison terms are now being sentenced. They tend to also be the prolific fundraisers, which could help explain the recent surge in fines requests.
Earlier this month, the judge who sentenced Nathaniel DeGrave to more than three years in prison also ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors noted that the Nevada resident “incredibly” raised over $120,000 in GiveSendGo fundraising campaigns that referred to him as “Beijing Biden’s political prisoner” in “America’s Gitmo” — a reference to the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
“He did this despite seeking to cooperate with the government and admitting he and his co-conspirators were guilty since at least November 2021,” a prosecutor wrote.
Lawyer William Shipley, who has represented DeGrave and more than two dozen other Jan. 6 defendants, said he advises clients to avoid raising money under the auspices of being a political prisoner if they intend to plead guilty.