A federal judge on Monday questioned why American taxpayers are being left with a more than $500 million bill after US prosecutors reportedly asked Capitol riot defendants to pay just $1.5 million in restitution.
During a plea hearing for a Colorado Springs man who committed a nonviolent misdemeanor count, Chief US District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington questioned the Justice Department's stance, according to The Washington Post.
Howell questioned the US attorney's office in Washington on Monday regards why it was looking to require only $2,000 in each felony case and $500 in each misdemeanor case.
"I'm accustomed to the government being fairly aggressive in terms of fraud when there have been damages that accrue from a criminal act for the restitution amount," said Howell.
"Where we have Congress acting, appropriating all this money due directly to the events of January 6th, I have found the damage amount of less than $1.5 million — when all of us American taxpayers are about to foot the bill for close to half a billion dollars — a little bit surprising," she continued.
In late July, Congress passed a $2.1 billion security budget that reportedly covers some costs of January 6's events, including reimbursements of $521 million for the National Guard and $70 million to the Capitol Police, with an $300 million for Capitol security improvements.
Assistant US Attorney Clayton Henry O'Connor gave Howell an explanation of how it computed the damage and restitution would come before October from the government.
In a court filing from May, prosecutors gave few details as to how they came up with "approximately $1,495,326.55" sum of damages done to the grounds.
According to The Washington Post, "the basis of the estimate was not clear but appeared to reflect the immediate costs of replacing broken windows, doors and other property. A spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol said the agency gave damage assessments to the Justice Department, which calculated the per-case penalty, and separate assessments to House and Senate appropriators for wider security costs."
According to federal law, judges are allowed to order convicted offenders to reimburse victims for property damage and other losses at sentencing, depending on whether the losses are a direct result of an offender's crime. The law also makes restitution a negotiable item in accordance to plea agreement.
In contrast, during the riots of last year stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, an estimated $2 billion in property damage was done, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
The total, which makes the Capitol damages pale in comparison, could total more, with the estimate coming in late September, as riots were still ongoing in cities like Portland and Seattle.
It is unclear whether restitution was sought in these cases, with insurance companies bearing the brunt of the total, and in many cases not providing enough compensation to destroyed businesses to enable rebuilding.