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Lawmakers give conflicting accounts of how Jan. 6 defendants being treated in D.C. jail after touring facility

Congressional Integrity Project Video Truck Circles DC Jail
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) (L) talks to the media as the Congressional Integrity Project video truck showing 12 minutes of footage from the Jan. 6 insurrection drives around the DC Department of Corrections on Mar. 24, 2023 in Washington, DC.  Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Congressional Integrity Project

A congressional tour of the Jan. 6th defendants' wing of the Washington, D.C. jail ended with contradictory accounts of how the accused Capitol rioters are being treated behind bars.

In a post-tour news conference disrupted by protesters, hecklers and some physical confrontations among those in the audience, GOP House members claimed that Jan. 6 defendants are being deprived of due process, some medical care and services afforded to other jail inmates. 

But Democratic House members who joined the tour argued the Jan. 6 defendants are receiving uniquely favorable conditions — with access to entertainment equipment, freedom of movement and 24-hour medical care access.

The two-hour Friday afternoon tour for the bipartisan group of House members included a lengthy visit with some of the Jan. 6 defendants who are being held in pretrial detention in the D.C. jail. The House Republicans who joined the tour, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, said the defendants have been held for unacceptably long durations awaiting trial.  

"They're entitled to a quick and speedy trial," Greene said. "That's not happening here."   

She claimed the defendants lack access to some of the education programs and sports television viewing offered to other D.C. inmates.

Rep. Byron Donalds, Republican of Florida, said the lengthy pretrial detention terms are a violation of "constitutional rights and constitutional principles."

But Democratic Reps. Jasmine Crockett, of Texas, and Robert Garcia, of California, slammed the Republicans' criticism. Crockett contended that the Jan. 6 defendants were the recipients of "privilege," including freedom to move and individual jail cells, as opposed to shared cells. 

Crockett said, "Jan. 6 (defendants) had more access to technology (than other defendants)." Crockett, who was an attorney before she was elected to Congress, told reporters, "They have access to laptops and tablets. It's unlike anything I've ever seen."

She also said the Jan. 6 defendants had access to yoga classes, were able to send text messages to family and could enroll in programs to earn their GEDs while in jail.

There were contradictory allegations about the medical care received by Jan. 6 defendants inside the jail. 

But Greene argued that the inmates are not receiving full or proper care, including one accused rioter who is a cancer patient.  

However, Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia disputed that notion and said the Jan. 6 defendants had access to "24-hour medical care" and a "very professional" staff.  

Republicans on the jail tour "were treating some of these folks like they're celebrities," Garcia told reporters. "That's quite shameful in my opinion," adding, "we were in an open room with people that attacked our country."

In the two years since the Jan. 6 attack, the number of defendants in the D.C. jail has generally ranged from 20-40.

In a statement Friday, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the current inmates include "17 who are charged with violently assaulting federal officers and nine of them already convicted of that crime or other equally serious offenses."

Relatives of some of the Jan. 6 defendants hold a nighty protest outside the jail, which has been led by the mother of Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was shot and killed while breaching a door into the House Speaker's Lobby on Jan. 6, 2021, as members of Congress were trying to evacuate and get away from the mob. The protests have been taking place nightly since Aug. 1, 2022. Another organizer, Nicole Reffitt, of Texas, estimates 5,000-8,000 people watch a live stream of video feeds of the protest.

During the news conference Friday by House Republicans, hecklers and demonstrators shouted and used a whistling device to drown out the audio of the lawmakers. Another protester deployed a large video screen displaying images of some of the most violent moments of the Capitol attack within sight of the news conference. 

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