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FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., sent a scathing letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland, accusing him of showing undue and improper leniency for violent criminals.
In the memo, Hawley blasts Garland for asking for reduced sentences for rioters arrested during the protests of 2020 over the death of George Floyd, specifically referring to the case of Montez Terriel Lee Jr., who was convicted of the arson of a pawn shop that resulted in the death of a man.
“The riots of 2020 caused dozens of deaths and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of property. It is imperative that those who committed crimes be held accountable,” Hawley opened the letter to the attorney general. “And yet your Department of Justice is apparently determined to do the opposite.
“As the Department acknowledged, on May 28, Lee broke into the Max It Pawn Shop and poured fire accelerant throughout the store. As the pawnshop burned, Lee proclaimed, ‘F*** this place. We’re gonna burn this b**ch down.’ Lee then moved off with a group of other men, talking about the restaurants they planned to ‘hit’ next.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) did acknowledge such behavior from Lee, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison “for the arson of a Minneapolis pawn shop that resulted in the death of a man.”
However, Hawley points out that DOJ said in court filing before Lee’s sentencing that the violent protests were a way for upset men and women to express themselves.
“There appear … to have been many people who felt angry, frustrated, and disenfranchised, and who were attempting, in many cases in an unacceptably reckless and dangerous manner, to give voice to those feelings. Mr. Lee appears to be squarely in this latter category,” the DOJ’s filing stated. “And even the great American advocate for nonviolence and social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stated in an interview with CBS’ Mike Wallace in 1966 that ‘we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.’
“In light of these circumstances, the analysis of the [sentencing] guidelines does not appear appropriate,” DOJ concluded. The department asked for a “downward variance” of 12 years for Lee, much lower than the sentencing guidelines of up to 20 years.
Hawley questioned the motivations of DOJ in showing leniency on Lee – especially when the facts of the case suggest the vandalism and arson most likely killed another person.
“But Lee didn’t just destroy property. The body of 30-year-old Oscar Lee Stewart was found in the rubble of the pawn shop, and medical examiners attributed his death to ‘probable inhalation of products of combustion and thermal injury (building fire).’ Lee’s casual violence, in short, killed Mr. Stewart,” Hawley said in the letter to Garland.
“What this position statement makes clear is that, under your leadership, the toxic ideology of critical race theory has spread through the Department,” Hawley wrote to Garland.
The senator concluded, “While you treat persons charged with petty offenses from the January 6 riot as hardened criminals, now even the most heinous offenses can be treated leniently, as long as the perpetrator is of the correct race and the crime can be connected to some progressive cause célèbre.”
At the end of his letter, Hawley demands three pieces of information on the arrest and sentencing of protesters.
Specifically, Hawley requested a full list of cases where criminal conduct in the 2020 riots was withheld from normal sentencing, a list of cases where leniency was shown due to outrage over the death of George Floyd, and an explanation of the department’s reasoning and authority for these policies.
“Americans deserve equal justice under law, not far-left politicking that makes them less safe,” said Hawley.
DOJ did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco contributed to this report.