Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
A federal judge handed down the longest sentence yet for a January 6th rioter.
- U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sentenced Guy Reffitt to 87 months in prison for his role in the attack at the Capitol. Earlier this year, a jury convicted Reffitt on five counts, including, among others, obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a firearm. Reffitt was the first January 6th defendant to stand trial. He was a member of the Texas Three Percenters, a right-wing extremist group.
- According to evidence presented at trial, on January 6th, Reffitt led a mob of rioters up the Capitol building stairs. He wore body armor and carried a handgun and flexi-cuffs. “We’re taking the Capitol before the day is over,” Reffitt said on January 6th, which was recorded by a camera on his helmet. He also recorded himself saying that he was targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After the attack, Reffitt threatened his teenage children to stop them from alerting law enforcement about his conduct.
- At the sentencing hearing, Judge Friedrich said that Reffitt was “in a class of his own…in terms of what he was doing there that day, and what he claimed what he was there to do.” Speaking at the hearing, Reffitt said, “I really hate what I did…In 2020 I was a little crazy…I wasn’t thinking clearly,” and he said that going forward he will “have nothing to do with politics.”
Reproductive rights issues are in the news this week.
- In the highest-profile test of abortion rights at the ballot box since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, voters in Kansas rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have said there is no right to an abortion in the state. The vote was nearly 59% to 41%, in favor of rejecting the proposal. Despite this result, abortion access in the state remains limited — there are only four abortion clinics in the state. The state’s ban on most abortions after 22 weeks will also remain in effect.
- The Department of Justice sued the state of Idaho over a new law that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. The law permits criminal prosecutions against doctors who perform abortions, and it does not permit the procedure for lifesaving medical treatment, such as in the case of septic infections and ectopic pregnancies, which is the basis for the Biden administration’s lawsuit. “We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law. And we will closely scrutinize state abortion laws to ensure that they comply with federal law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said when announcing the lawsuit. Idaho Governor Brad Little said his administration would “defend Idaho’s laws in the face of federal meddling.” “Our nation’s highest court returned the issue of abortion to the states to regulate — end of story,” Little continued.
- President Biden signed an executive order that aims to protect people who travel across state lines to receive an abortion. This is the second order that Biden has issued since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade. In the first executive order, Biden aimed to protect access to abortion medication and contraception.
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