Prosecutors working on charges related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January have been scolded by a federal judge over several news leaks.
The news stories said prosecutors were considering “sedition” charges against some defendants.
District Judge Amit Mehta convened a hearing on Tuesday to admonish the prosecutors.
“No matter how much press attention this matter gets, let me be clear these defendants are entitled to a fair trial, not one that was conducted in the media,” he said, the Hill reported.
A former acting U.S. attorney for D.C. gave an interview on “60 Minutes” and the New York Times reported more severe charges were under consideration, citing anonymous sources.
Before the judge are cases against 10 members of the Oath Keepers organization. They face a variety of counts, such as conspiracy and obstruction, following the riot at the Capitol Jan. 6.
The comments to “60 Minutes” were from Michael Sherwin, who was overseeing the prosecutions until recently.
Sherwin said he believed prosecutors had evidence for sedition charges.
The judge warned that such statements “jeopardize the integrity of a criminal case and affect the rights of a criminal defendant.”
“Let me just say at the outset that I am surprised, I’m being restrained in my use of terminology, to say the least, to see Mr. Sherwin sitting for an interview about a pending case in an ongoing criminal investigation,” the judge said.
“Whether that interview violated justice policy is really not for me to say, but it is something I hope the Department of Justice is looking into. As for the New York Times story, I found it troubling that sources within the Department of Justice, were detailing the possibility of additional charges in pending criminal cases and an ongoing criminal investigation.”
A spokesman for the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington said both media disclosures were being review by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.