Rabbi Capitol rioter asks to pay $50 to avoid jail and calls arrest ‘modern-day version of tar and feathering’

·2-min read
 (US Attorney’s Office)
(US Attorney’s Office)

A Messianic rabbi who is among the hundreds charged in the Capitol riot has argued that he should be allowed to pay a fine of $50 (£36) and not be sent to jail.

Rabbi Michael Stepakoff, who took a selfie wearing a MAGA cap inside the Capitol building on the day of the riot, made the argument through his defence lawyer ahead of his sentencing next week, reported Business Insider.

Mr Stepakoff’s defence lawyer Marina Medvin made the argument in a court filing where she accused the Justice Department of making “public shaming” webpages for the riot defendants.

It is a “modern-day version of tar and feathering,” the lawyer wrote.

The Justice Department has accused the rabbi of entering and remaining and carrying out disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.

He is also charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct and parading, demonstration or picketing in the Capitol building.

Ms Medvin has told the court that Mr Stepakoff “should have walked away with a dismissal disposition and a $50 forfeiture after his arrest.”

She cited a 2018 case in which a woman was arrested for protesting Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, according to several reports.

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The case against the woman was dismissed after she paid a fine of $50, Ms Medvin wrote in her argument.

Mr Stepakoff, however, has been “punished for the duration of one year through supervised release and prosecution, and then convicted under federal law — albeit of a petty offence,” Ms Medvin argued, reported Business Insider.

Michael Stepakoff shared photos of himself at the 6 January Capitol riot on Facebook, as seen in this screenshot released by federal investigators (US Attorney’s Office)
Michael Stepakoff shared photos of himself at the 6 January Capitol riot on Facebook, as seen in this screenshot released by federal investigators (US Attorney’s Office)

She said the most significant difference between the two cases was politics.

“Mr Stepakoff entered amid a crowd of Trump supporters,” she said, whereas the Kavanaugh protester had entered with a progressive women’s group.

According to the defence lawyer’s court filing, Mr Stepakoff had already paid a $500 (£364) fine in “good faith” to help cover the charges of repairing the damaged Capitol building.

The fine was imposed on several low-level riot defendants.

Ms Medvin said Mr Stepakoff paid the amount despite having “committed no destruction or direct property damage.”

The court’s sentence for Mr Stepakoff, who also works as a youth sports coach in the Tampa Bay area, will be pronounced on 20 January, exactly a year after president Joe Biden took the inaugural oath of the office.

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