AP’s examination of Capitol riot cases finds some judges divided on punishment, particularly for low-level misdemeanors.
As the congressional hearings into the U.S. Capitol riot approached, a massive database AP has maintained on every Jan. 6 case brought by the Department of Justice seemed ripe for analysis — and it was, producing a distinctive, engaging look at patterns of judicial discretion in the sentencing of defendants.
Two of the primary reporters covering the trials that have emerged from Jan. 6 — Michael Kunzelman, in College Park, Maryland, and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston — started digging into AP’s data, which is continually updated with every twist and turn in the more than 800 cases filed in the DOJ’s largest prosecution ever.
Their analysis and reporting focused on extremes in judicial temperament, including one judge in particular, an Obama appointee who has gone beyond prosecutors’ recommended sentences in a number of cases. That judge was critical of one of her colleagues on the bench, a Trump appointee who has suggested the DOJ is being too hard on first-time defendants who participated in the attack on the Capitol.
With smart visual presentation by developers Linda Gorman in Boston and Seth Rasmussen in New York, and interactive charts by Washington-based multimedia editor Kevin Vineys, the team revealed how various factors, including a judge’s perspective, may influence the cases of Jan. 6 defendants.
The Only on AP story, which ran between the first and second public hearings by the House panel, was among AP’s leading stories for the weekend and was widely picked up, from the Los Angeles Times to the Boston Globe and hundreds of sites in between.
For a timely exclusive with original data and reporting, and impressive presentation, the team of Kunzelman, Durkin Richer, Gorman, Rasmussen and Vineys is AP’s Best of Week — Second Winner.
SPECIAL CITATION FOR INNOVATION:
Livestream of Jan. 6 hearings
The Best of the Week committee grants a special citation for innovation to the team that led to the AP broadcasting the Jan. 6 hearings live on AP News and social platforms — AP’s first foray into livestreaming such an event on our platforms.
Alex Connor of the Digital News Audiences and Platforms team worked with the AP video and Digital Products teams to quickly build a plan for livestreaming to drive engagement on APNews and to expand our live video to audiences on social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
The Digital News and Digital Products teams coordinated with Jack Auresto in the Washington bureau to plan to broadcast the livestream. Darren Long and Edward Asta in London, meanwhile, worked with AP News Senior Director Will Federman on connecting AP Video Hub’s live feeds with a video editing tool that allowed for easy publishing on social media. During the primetime hearing, Connor worked with mobile editor Dave Clark to promote the work of AP’s congressional reporting team and photojournalists inside the Capitol across social platforms.
It was a phenomenally popular debut for AP. Our livestream from the first prime-time hearing drove more than 800,000 views on and off our platform. Live video cuts on Twitter alone drove another 2 million views. So, while Nielsen estimated 20 million people watched the broadcast hearing, some 2.8 million people saw the hearing on AP live or after it was embedded in AP News and on social platforms. The innovation will allow AP to capture audience and monetize viewership in the future.