A federal judge who has sentenced the last of four men responsible for setting a Minnesota police precinct ablaze on the heels of George Floyd’s death gave what critics saw as a light sentence to the offender while offering up unearned sympathy.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz, a George W. Bush appointee, sentenced Bryce Michael Williams to 27 months and ordered him to help pay $12 million in restitution for damages caused to the station after he pleaded guilty along with the other three men.
But in handing down his punishment of Williams, Schlitz called him a “good person who made a terrible mistake” and cited that as justification for giving him a sentence lighter than what federal guidelines call for.
That said, Schlitz did reject a plea by the 27-year-old father and former college basketball player for probation, calling him a leader of a mob that torched the Third Precinct building in south Minneapolis, “not a follower.”
“Williams, of Staples, was one of more than a thousand people who gathered outside the precinct on May 28, 2020. As the crowd chanted ‘burn it down,’ dozens tore down the fence around police headquarters,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported, adding that Williams then entered the precinct building and lit a Molotov cocktail.
Another rioter, Davon De-Andre Turner, used the Molotov cocktail to start a fire in the building; Williams proceeded to throw a box into the flames near the precinct entrance.
Turner later published videos of himself and others who took part in the subsequent riots following Floyd’s death to his TikTok account, earning him more than 150,000 followers.
In addition to Williams and Turner, a federal grand jury also returned indictments for Dylan Shakespeare Robinson and Branden Michael Wolfe, charging all four with a single count of conspiracy to commit arson. Schlitz handed Turner a three-year sentence, gave Robinson four years, and sentenced Wolfe to three years and five months while ordering all four to help pay for the damages.
“Williams is a biracial man who grew up in predominantly white Twin Cities suburbs. He attended college on a basketball scholarship and became the first in his family to graduate, just before Floyd’s killing. Earlier this year, he told the Star Tribune, ‘George Floyd helped me figure out who I am, 100 percent,'” the paper reported.
The sentence and Schlitz’s comments regarding Williams’ character were blasted by conservative columnist Daniel Horowitz, who compared it to the treatment received by many Americans arrested for far less violence and serious crimes resulting from the Jan. 6. riot.
“Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed one person after another being held without bail, and even beaten in prison or held in solitary confinement for nothing more than disorderly conduct or public trespassing charges for what occurred at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,” he wrote at The Blaze on Tuesday.
“Yet, Americans have forgotten that among all the horrific violence BLM has unleashed on this country, they burnt a police station to the ground. So, what was the punishment for the perpetrators?” he continued, ripping the 27-month sentence for Williams.
“What’s more appalling is that Schiltz now created a new precedent for more ‘sympathetic’ violent crimes if the goal behind the violence is endorsed by ‘the system.’ The judge added that it was ‘easy to understand’ why the killing of George Floyd had affected Williams,” Horowitz continued.
“Given the way the system feels about a man like this, you can bet your bottom dollar that Williams will be eligible for all the early time credits and will easily be released after serving a year or so,” he wrote.
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