The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Tacoma Woman Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Arson at Downtown Seattle Protest"


From a Justice Department press release distributed yesterday:

A 26-year-old Tacoma, Washington, woman was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 5 years in prison for arson for burning five Seattle Police vehicles parked around Sixth and Pine in downtown Seattle on Saturday, May 30, 2020, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Margaret Aislinn Channon was arrested June 11, 2020, following an investigation by the FBI, ATF, and Seattle Police Department. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said Channon's conduct had done "tremendous damage to Black Lives Matter in Seattle."

"The right to protest, gather, and call out injustices is one of the dearest and most important rights we enjoy in the United States," said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "Indeed, our democracy depends on both exercising and protecting these rights. But Ms. Channon's conduct was itself an attack on democracy. She used the cover of lawful protests to carry out dangerous and destructive acts, risking the safety of everyone around her and undermining the important messages voiced by others."

According to records filed in the case, Channon appears in videos from a protest in downtown Seattle wearing distinctive clothing and showing tattoos on her hands and arms. Channon is captured on video using fire and aerosol cans to light five Seattle Police Department vehicles on fire. She is also shown entering various stores and stealing clothing. She admitted smashing the window at the Verizon Store and entering a sandwich shop and destroying the electronic cash register. Investigators identified Channon based on her clothing, tattoos, and information from her various social media accounts.

Channon's most dangerous conduct was the arson of the vehicles using an aerosol can as a blowtorch. As prosecutors noted in their sentencing memo, "hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity of the police cars that Channon burned, some only a few feet away. All of them were in harm's way if one of the vehicles had exploded."

"This case is an example of the FBI's commitment to investigating domestic terrorism cases, no matter what their motivations may be," said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Office. "The FBI believes in the peaceful expression of free speech, and Channon committed acts of violence and destruction, endangered other people, and distracted from and escalated demonstrations."

"It should be clear that lawful protests do not include the use of violent actions such as breaking store windows and committing theft and arson," said ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson.  "We will vigorously investigate anyone who turns to arson and violence against our citizens, businesses and cities. This sentence is clearly warranted and should send a message that this behavior will never be tolerated." …

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.

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  1. She should also pay to replace the 5 police cars.

    1. She was mostly peaceful protesting...nothing to see here..a hero to the community. Biden admin has a policy position for her..."SME in Ukranian infrastructure"

  2. Good. Lock anyone like that up.

    Someone who lives in a downtown and had to plywood up their mixed-use building and load ammo in 2020.

    1. All law abiding citizens should be required to be armed. If they do not fire on a violent criminal like this traitor, they should fined $100. She should have been blasted at the location instead of this garbage, rent seeking, expensive worthless legal proceeding enriching lawyers and judges.

  3. Pardon my ignorance, but what's the federal angle on this crime - in other words, why didn't the state deal with it?

    "hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity of the police cars that Channon burned, some only a few feet away. All of them were in harm's way if one of the vehicles had exploded."

    I'm curious if any of these hundreds of people in the vicinity tried to stop her.

    1. As to the federal angle, I've added a link to the Criminal Complaint, which explains the relevant federal statute: The jurisdictional hook is that the arson must be of property used "in interstate and foreign commerce" or "in an activity affecting interstate and foreign commerce," or of property owned by an entity "receiving Federal financial assistance." But that just explains why the feds could prosecute; why they chose to do so, rather than leaving the matter to the states, I don't know.

      1. The DA likely chose not to prosecute on political grounds. A lot of selective non prosecution going around back then.

        1. This is an article of faith on the right. Never seen any proof.

          1. You can simply look to the number of prosecutions, and the sentences sought when prosecuted, for the weeks of riots and looting in major cities across the country.

            You can also read all the myriad defenses from notables on the left for the federal prosecution of Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman, the New York laywers could on video throwing the firebomb at a police car.

            The policy not to prosecute such crimes, particularly concerning "protests" for leftwing causes, is a source of pride among a significant number of urban district attorneys. It's also a basis for some recall elections and numerous very public political debates, including most recently by the Democratic governor and mayor of NYC criticizing Manhattan's new DA.

            Sarcastr0, it's not an article of faith when the prosecutors and a great many politicos on the left don't hide their views.

            1. Branford, you seem to have no notion what evidence looks like. Hint: it is not evidence of crime that political opportunists launch recall elections, and stage "very public political debates."

              Also? If you say, "a great many politicos on the left," that is not convincing without a great many citations to confirm it.

            2. Taxpayers should get standing. The lack is another delusional scumbag lawyer injustice. Then victim should be able to sue prosecutors for malpractice for their refusal to prosecute criminals they favor. We are sick of this toxic profession, 10 times more toxic than organized crime.

            3. The policy not to prosecute such crimes

              You make a claim here and back it up with...nothing.

          2. C’mon Sarcastro. Compare the violence to prosecution ratio of BLM summer to the same ratio for 1/6. Not picking a side but the numbers are undeniable.

            There’s got to be some reason for the scarcity of prosecution related to the BLM riots. Got an alternate explanation?

            1. What scarcity? Way more people have been prosecuted for violence during the BLM events than on January 6.

              It's true many cases have been dismissed against protestors, but those have mostly been charges like violating curfew, not actual violence.

            2. WHAT NUMBERS!

              There are no numbers. You've been fooled on this one by the right repeating this claim over and over again. But they never offer any support.

              Plenty of individual examples of BLM protesters and rioters being arrested, going to jail and some being prosecuted. But without a baseline, I don't know whether it's relatively a lot of a little.

              And neither do you.

              1. Glad you asked for numbers.

                So, comparing the two, the BLM protests were FAR more violent than Jan 6th, with over 2000 police injuries, 1 police death, and many more deaths. Lots of arrests (over 16,000).

                But more 90% of charges were dropped in most jurisdictions.

                Whereas, the % of charges dropped in Jan 6th has been far..far...lower. If any.


          3. Well there is this headline:
            'System Failure': Report finds Seattle prosecutors don't pursue 46% of misdemeanors
            A report commissioned by six business associations found that inefficiencies in Seattle’s legal system forces taxpayers and crime victims to pay the consequences.

            Then in the recent Seattle City elections long time city attorney Pete Holmes finished 3rd. Then in the runoff it's was between the Republicans forlorn hope, and this candidate:
            "Nicole Thomas-Kennedy Vows Not to Prosecute Almost All Misdemeanors"

            The Republican hardass won, in Seattle. But of course the city attorney only prosecutes misdemeanors.

            However the most likely reason local officials didn't prosecute the case is after Seattle defunded the police and lost over 40% of it's police force, they didn't have the manpower to review all the video, do the facial and tattoo analysis and have the billion + facial image database to identify the subject like the Fed's do.

            1. This is completely irrelevant to the thesis, which was about BLM.

        2. " A lot of selective non prosecution going around back then. "

          I observed plenty of prosecution.

          But I am not blinded by anti-social, disaffected, bigoted right-wing nuttery.

          1. Still talking? When can we expect your resignation and replacement?

          2. I hope and pray every day someone murders you in an extremely violent manner then dumps your worthless corpse in a garbage pit, you useless subhuman turd.

      2. I believe the courts have construed this to exclude single family residences, despite their being made of wood and metal that traveled in interstate commerce using tools that traveled in interstate commerce.

    2. I was going to ask the same question. Thank you

      1. The interstate commerce angle is a stretch as usual. Police cars? Show your Rube Goldberg chain of reasoning for full credit.

        Destroying stuff bought with federal money seems much more reasonable.

    3. "or of property owned by an entity 'receiving Federal financial assistance.'"

      Almost every cop shop in America receives some sort of federal assistance. That's the hook. And that's the hook prosecutors will use if they really feel like taking things federal.

    4. What I wonder is did the prosecutor and/or judge depart from the sentencing range.

      There was the recent case in Minneapolis where an arsonist who caused the death of the owner of the pawn shop he torched was given a lenient sentence based on the recommendation of the DOJ because he was rioting in a good cause.

      Tom Cotton held up the nomination of the US Attorney in Minnesota asking for the DOJ to explain. And the judge that followed the recommendation was on Biden's Supreme Court shortlist, and that might have been, but probably wasn't a factor.

      1. A charge of arson has a mandatory minimum five year sentence. There was more than one arson prosecution in Minnesota and I'm not sure which you are writing about.

        In a 2021 sentencing ( the prosecutor chose to charge conspiracy rather than a substantive crime, avoiding the five year mandatory minimum.

        In a sentencing earlier this year, the prosecution got 10 years instead of life by overlooking the dead body found in the ruins.

    5. I watched a drug manufacture case be transferred from state to federal jurisdiction. When I asked why, it was explained that the states are bound by speedy trial requirements - not so much the feds.

    6. not sure if people remember this but the cops ended up begging to be federally sworn because the attacks on them (among thousands of injuries, hundreds were blinded, some permanently) were not being prosecuted by local DAs

      like the old 1960s Reason cover on my wall says

      The Pigs, And The Other Pigs

  4. but .... but .... but .... I was told those rioters were never sentenced to prison (unlike the holy martyrs of the Trumpian Church for their ‘legitimate political discourse’ trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and/or hang Mike Pence)

    OK; admittedly I never believed a claim so stupid - despite hearing it repeatedly from the usual suspects in this forum. With just a dime for every Jimmy or Bob-style claim that BLM-ish rioters got off scott-free, I might easily opt for immediate retirement. It's religious creed among the more gullible sheep.

    Speaking of Trump-grade claims, did you see the Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, spoke today of "the United States, where the legitimately elected president of the country was overthrown" Dang! Even after all this time the Russia State is still shucking for Trump. That's touching loyalty from those hard-hearted Russians....

    1. Whores gotta whore. (To the tune of, "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly.")

      1. Speaking of whores got to whore, it's not out of the question that the person who talked her into burning the 6 squad cars was a federal asset. Hence a Federal prosecution.

    2. They're rarely prosecuted, and when they are, harsh sentences almost never sought, by state urban district attorneys.

      That's why the federal prosecutions are so notable, and why there's ample virtual ink spilled on the left complaining about assertions of federal jurisdiction.

      1. from Minneapolis Star Tribune:

        Judge goes below [sentencing] guidelines, gives 10-year term to man who set deadly Lake St. fire during unrest
        [X] argued that [the defendant] was a protester, not a rioter.

        Who's X? The arsonist's lawyer? His mom? No, it's the prosecutor!

        1. Won't this felony conviction automatically strip her of the right to vote at least until the completion of her sentence? Then will she need to petition to get it back or will it simply be restored at that time?

      2. You seem uninformed to the point of stupidity, branford.

        Carry on, clinger . . . so far as bigotry and backwardness could carry anyone in modern America, that is.

        1. Please choke on a .45 and pull the trigger, you worthless pile of shit.

      3. They're rarely prosecuted, and when they are, harsh sentences almost never sought, by state urban district attorneys.

        Again, you just say this. I'm sure you believe it, but where did you get the proof behind what you believe here?

        1. Real Clear Politics tracked over 16000 arrested and charged "protesters" from the 2020 riots, which resulted in about 15000 dropped charges.
          Of those that went to trial, the average time served was about 6 months.
          Or you can take the Major Cities Chiefs Association - a nationwide police organization - report. 53% of their participating organizations reported that their local DAs had chosen to file no charges for "protest"-related violence.

          . One agency reported that a local District
          Attorney dismissed more than 600 cases and would only pursue cases that had multiple charges. In some instances, prosecutors refused to charge those arrested for felony crimes committed during the protests despite the availability of video evidence and suspect confessions.

          Or you can take the far-rightwing rag The Washington Post at their word, about the 88 arrested for violent crimes over the first 2 days of rioting in 2020: On their first appearance in court, roughly 80 were released with all charges were dropped.

          Or maybe you don't trust US coverage. So let's look at the Guardian's year-later retrospective!

          In most of a dozen jurisdictions examined, at least 90% of cases were dropped or dismissed. In some cities, like Dallas and Philadelphia, as many as 95% of citations were dropped or not prosecuted.
          In Houston, about 93% of citations were dropped; in Los Angeles, about 93% of citations were not filed.

          Mayors in every city except Detroit dropped all citations over which they had jurisdiction.

          Portland has also seen recent violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement. Still, only 15% of nearly 1,100 cases have been filed and 82% have been rejected by the Multnomah county prosecutor, Mike Schmidt.

          Of the more than 100 arrested by federal law enforcement there, for activities like attempted mass murder and terrorism, barely a dozen didn't have their charges dropped within a few weeks.

          You might have learned by now, but your deliberate ignorance of events does not mean those events did not occur.

  5. This sounds reasonable.

    Has any Conspirator mentioned the guilty plea is a seditious conspiracy case today?

    Carry on, clingers . . . but just so far as your betters permit, as has become customary in modern, improving-against-your-conservative-preferences America.

    1. What would be reasonable would be you repeatedly run over by a garbage truck then you thrown in the back, you worthless turd.

  6. re: "hundreds of people were standing in the vicinity of the police cars that Channon burned, some only a few feet away. All of them were in harm's way if one of the vehicles had exploded."

    Okay, she's a bad person who should be locked up. But that's just stupid. That's a prosecutor who's watched too many movies and is playing fast and loose with the facts. If I'd been on the jury, I'd start wondering what else the prosecutor is lying about.

    1. I actually did see a car explode in front of me. It was a bad accident and was actually on fire. The gas tank blew.

      Now, it wasn't a Hollywood explosion, but if you were close by, it would have been pretty dangerous. The gas cap over went at least 30 feet. Fortunately, the fire truck was shielding everyone. Craziest traffic jam I've ever been involved in.

    2. You sir are an idiot.

      That's a very congested location and the street there is just a sidewalk away from the old Fredrick and Nelson department store that was originally built in 1922 as 4 stories, and expanded to 9 stories in 1952. That building could go up like a torch, and it takes up the whole block bounded by 6th and Pine down to 5th, where it's just across the street from other apartment and office buildings of the same vintage.

      A fire there could get out of control easily and leave a lot of dead bodies. 6th and Pine is not a vacant parking lot on a Hollywood set.

      1. Let's give Ros the benefit of the doubt. You often see the "Cars aren't made of explodium" argument on fact check websites, often with safety discussion about how you shouldn't risk getting injured people out of crashed cars and should wait for paramedics. However, if the car is actually on fire, things are different. A full gas tank is a liquid bomb that can explode if the fire hits it.

        1. You need to have the gasoline fuel/air mix volatilized for an explosion. Otherwise it just burns more.

          1. Yes, I totally get that.

            But have you ever actually been in that building?

            My ex-wife is an artist, I helped her construct an exhibition that was installed the entire length of the Nordstrom building (the 1922-52 Frederick and Nelson building).

            I did not help her with the installation, but I did of course later walk the whole block if 6th avenue north where the squad cars were at afire.

            The sidewalk there is maybe 10-12 feet from the street where the squad cars would have been burning.

            Fuel air mixture has nothing to do with it. It's proximity, temperature and autoignition temperature.

            I live a different life now. Summers I live off the grid in the forest. 2/3 the acarage of the county I live in has burned in the last 5 years (it's actually about 1/2 that because fires can skip or merely scorch a lot of area, and the county is very big and only has 18k and 3 traffic lights. Look up the Dixie, Beckworth, and Westside complex fires if you don't believe me. It was the Westside that was only 6 miles away from me that raced 40 miles going west overnight and killed 12 people, but being a chicken hawk I evacuated before that because nobody expected a gale force east wind to kick up like that to blow the fire away from me.

            The point is only someone that has no idea what they are talking about talks about fuel air mixture. Nothing matters except proximity and temperature. To be sure I'd probably be better off with corregated steel panels rather than plywood.siding. But I'm not sure if a fir tree 50' away is hot enough to ignite the plywood under my metal roof. I do know it will be hot enough to kill me so I won't be sticking around. In fact I evacuated twice last summer.

            But thanks for your comment, I enjoy responding to someone that has absolutely no idea about what they are talking about.

    3. it's not as common as in Grand Theft Auto but it happens

  7. Five years, out in three; maybe credit for time awaiting trial?
    Damn shame she will miss the next elections.

    1. There is no "five years, out in three" in the federal system.

      1. There is a reduction for good behavior, but by 15% rather than 40%.

  8. Five years.

    Good thing she didn't kill anyone, or she would have gotten another five years on top of that.

  9. Won't this felony conviction automatically strip her of the right to vote at least until the completion of her sentence? Then will she need to petition to get it back or will it simply be restored at that time?

    1. "If you were convicted of a felony in Washington State, another state, or in federal court, your right to vote will be restored automatically as long as you are not currently serving a sentence of total confinement in prison."

  10. Good.

    The people who were violent and caused personal harm and property damage MUST be prosecuted and sentenced.

  11. There really isn't an issue here.

    She stepped beyond peaceful protest into criminal activity.

    Arrested, convicted, and sentenced as per the law.

    And I say that as one who fully supported the cause underlying the protests which she defiled by her actions.

  12. The DOJ press release is a reflection of DOJ's current prosecution policies. It highlights a quote from the judge that complains that the defendant's actions have done severe damage to the "Black Lives Matter" movement, thereby indicating that both the judge and DOJ seem to think that embarrassing the BLM movement was the essence of the violation and that potentially killing or maiming a large number of protesters and police officers was just a minor, collateral matter.

  13. This is the same five year mandatory minimum that got the Hammonds. Maybe President Harris will pardon this woman like Trump pardoned the Hammonds. Depends on whether we get the tough-on-crime Harris or the intersectional justice Harris.

  14. "The right to protest, gather, and call out injustices is one of the dearest and most important rights Democrats enjoy in the United States,"

    ftfy judge

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