Less than two months after pleading guilty to storming the US Capitol, Texas resident Daniel Goodwyn was watching Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show at the time and promoted a website where supporters could donate money to Goodwyn and other rioters, whom the website described as “political prisoners”.
The Justice Department is now demanding that Goodwyn turn over more than $25,000 he raised – a recovery that is part of the government’s growing effort to prevent rioters from being able to personally benefit from their participation the attack that shook the very foundations of American democracy.
A review of the court records by the Associated Press shows that in the more than 1,000 criminal cases of January 6, 2021, prosecutors are increasingly asking judges to hand out fines in addition to jail terms to match donations from supporters of the Capitol rioters.
Dozens of defendants have launched online fundraisers to get help with legal fees, and prosecutors recognize there is nothing wrong with asking for legal fees help. But the Justice Department has questioned where the money is really going in some cases, as many of the defendants have used state-funded legal representation.
Most fundraising efforts take place on GiveSendGo, which bills itself as “the #1 free Christian fundraising site” and has become a haven for defendants who were banned on January 6th from mainstream crowdfunding Use sites, including GoFundMe, to raise money. The rioters often protest their innocence and present themselves as victims of state repression, although they make deals to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.
Their fundraising success suggests that many people across the United States still view the January 6 rioters as patriots and hold onto the unfounded belief that they are The Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump. The former president himself pushed this idea, Promise to pardon rioters if he is elected.
“He shouldn’t be able to use his own notoriety for committing his crimes to ‘capitalize’ his involvement in the Capitol breach.”
Markus Maly, a Virginia man who is due to be sentenced next month for assaulting police in the Capitol, raised more than $16,000 through an online campaign labeling him a “January 6 prisoner of war” and asking for money for his family asked. Prosecutors sought a fine of over $16,000 and found that Maly had public counsel and owed no attorney’s fees.
“He shouldn’t be able to use his own notoriety, earned by committing his crimes, to capitalize on his involvement in the breaching of the Capitol.” wrote a prosecutor in court documents.
So far this year, prosecutors have sought fines of more than $390,000 against at least 21 rioting defendants, with amounts ranging from $450 to over $71,000, according to the AP.
Judges have handed out fines of at least $124,127 to 33 defendants this year on riot charges. Over the past two years, judges have sentenced more than 100 defendants to total fines of more than $240,000 for rioting.
Separately, judges have ordered hundreds of convicted rioters to pay more than $524,000 to the government to cover more than $2.8 million for damage to the Capitol and other Jan. 6-related expenses.
More rioters are now being convicted, facing the heaviest charges and the longest prison sentences. They’re also typically the most prolific fundraisers, which could explain the recent spike in fines.
Earlier this month, the judge sentenced Nathaniel DeGrave to more than three years in prison and also ordered him to pay a $25,000 fine. Prosecutors found that the Nevada resident raised an “incredible” over $120,000 in GiveSendGo fundraisers, which featured him in “America’s Gitmo” as “Peking Biden’s political prisoner” — a reference to the Guantanamo Bay detention center .
“He did so despite trying to cooperate with the government and admitting that he and his co-conspirators had been guilty since at least November 2021.” wrote a prosecutor.
Attorney William Shipley, who represented DeGrave and more than two dozen other Jan. 6 defendants, said he advises clients not to raise money under the pretense of being a political prisoner if they intend to plead guilty.
“Until they admit they committed a crime, they have every right to scream from the rooftops that the only reason they’re being held is for politics,” Shipley said. “It’s just a political First Amendment speech.”
Shipley said he presented documents to the judge showing DeGrave collected about $25,000 more than he paid his attorneys.
“Up until these cases, I never had to do that because I’ve never had a client do a third-party fundraising like this,” Shipley said. “There is a section of the population that understands the plight of these defendants.”
Heather Wilson, co-founder of GiveSendGo, said that her website’s decision to provide legal defense funds to those accused of the Capitol riots “is based on our society’s commitment to the presumption of innocence and the freedom of all people to hire private lawyers.”
The government is pushing for bigger fines as it meets a milestone in the largest federal investigation in American history: just over 500 defendants have been convicted for January 6 crimes.
Judges do not approve prosecutors’ fines.
Prosecutors asked for a fine of more than $70,000 Peter Schwartz, a Kentucky man who attacked police officers outside the Capitol with pepper spray and a chair. US District Judge Amit Mehta this month sentenced Schwartz to more than 14 years in prison — one of the longest sentences in a Capitol riot case — but imposed no fine.
Prosecutors suspect Schwartz was trying to cash in on his Patriot Pete Political Prisoner in DC fundraiser. However, his attorney Dennis Boyle said there was no evidence to back this up.
The judge “essentially said that if the money would be used for attorneys’ fees or similar expenses, there was no justification for a fine,” Boyle said.
A jury convicted Romance novel cover model John Strand to storm the Capitol Simone Gold, a California doctor who is a leading figure in the anti-vaccination movement. Now prosecutors are looking for a $50,000 fine in addition to a jail sentence for Strand when a judge sentences him on Thursday.
According to prosecutors, Strand has raised more than $17,300 for his legal defense without disclosing that he has a taxpayer-funded attorney. They say Strand appears to have “significant financial means” and lives in a home that was purchased last year for more than $3 million.
“Strand has and continues to raise money on his website based on his false statements and misrepresentations regarding the events of January 6,” prosecutors wrote.
Goodwyn, who appeared on Carlson’s show in March, is due to be sentenced next month. Defense attorney Carolyn Stewart described prosecutors as “demanding blood from a rock” when demanding the $25,000 fine.
“He received this amount as a charity to pay off his debt for legal fees for former attorneys and this is upsetting to the government for reasons unknown.” Stewart wrote.