May 27, 2024

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan Assigned

  • Former President Donald Trump was indicted for a third time on Tuesday for his actions on January 6.
  • The United States District Court judge assigned to oversee the case is Tanya Chutkan.
  • She’s the only DC judge who has sentenced J6 rioters to longer sentences than prosecutors requested.

Former President Donald Trump was indicted for a third time on Tuesday, prompting curious eyes to turn to the person who will be overseeing the history-making trial: District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.

So, who is Judge Chutkan?

Chutkan went to George Washington University in Washington, DC, for her bachelor’s degree. After receiving her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Chutkan worked in private practice for several years before becoming a trial attorney and supervisor at the District of Columbia Public Defender Service, according to her biography.

After more than a decade, the native of Kingston, Jamaica, joined Boies, Schiller, & Flexner LLP, where she specialized in litigation and white-collar criminal defense, before being appointed by then-President Obama to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014.

Chutkan has overseen cases of January 6, 2021, defendants

She is the only federal judge in the District of Columbia that has sentenced January 6 rioters to longer sentences than prosecutors have requested, NBC News reported. In one instance, Chutkan sentenced January 6 rioter Matthew Mazzocco to 45 days in jail despite prosecutors’ requests for home confinement for the duration of his sentence, Insider previously reported. 

“Because the country is watching,” Insider reported she said during the sentencing, “to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in this country before, for actions and crimes that undermine the rule of law and our democracy.”

Chutkan has also previously rejected a request by Trump’s legal team to block the release of documents to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, according to ABC News.

The significance of this judge assignment is not limited to her prior decision-making

While unlikely, Trump could opt out of a jury trial and request Chutkan to decide herself whether he had broken the law.

“With respect to a case like this and with charges like this, he’s entitled to a jury trial. However, he does have the right to ask for the judge to be the trier of fact and waive a trial by jury,” Anna Cominsky, an associate professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at New York Law School, told Insider. “Sometimes that happens in cases in particular, where the defendant who’s arguing has a very technical defense. So he’s really relying on sort of a particular nuance in the law where they’re concerned that it’ll be hard for the jurors to understand.” 

However, Cominsky said such a decision by the Trump legal team “most likely would not happen here.”

Why was she picked?

While Trump supporters have been quick to label Chutkan’s appointment as evidence that the trial is “rigged,The Washington Post reported federal judges are chosen to oversee trials by a random draw based on how much availability they have in their caseload.

The random assignment rule is in place to prevent prosecutors from judge-shopping to try to have their cases heard by sympathetic judges. 

The office of Judge Chutkan and representatives for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

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