Congressional Republicans are demanding answers after the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued for a lenient sentence for a convicted arsonist that set a building on fire and killed a man during the 2020 George Floyd riots.
A judge sentenced Montez Terriel Lee, 26, to 10 years in prison last month after Lee pleaded guilty to burning down the Max It Pawn Shop in May of 2020. Lee evaded murder charges over the death of Oscar Stewart, a father of five who died in the pawn shop fire.
Federal sentencing guidelines suggest that Lee should have been locked up for closer to 20 years, according to The Washington Free Beacon. DOJ prosecutors argued in a memo prior to his sentencing that he deserved no more than 12 years, however, because his reckless actions were inspired by feelings of frustration and anger at the treatment of black people by police.
“This is an extraordinary case. The United States therefore seeks a downward variance, and a sentence of 144 months,” the memo says. “Mr. Lee’s motive for setting the fire is a foremost issue. Mr. Lee credibly states that he was in the streets to protest unlawful police violence against black men, and there is no basis to disbelieve this statement.”
“There appear to have been many people in those days looking only to exploit the chaos and disorder in the interests of personal gain or random violence. There appear also 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 prosecutors argued, before quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that rioting “is the language of the unheard.”
The judge appeared to favor the prosecutors’ argument and sentenced Lee to 10 years in prison. Lee burned down the pawn shop on May 28, 2020, while wearing a mask. Video of the act caught the 26 year old explaining his actions, saying, “F*** this place. We’re going to burn this b**** down!”
Congressional Republicans have hammered the DOJ over the sentencing memo in recent days. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the Biden administration in a Tuesday letter to the department.
“But in the case of Mr. Lee, the acting U.S. attorney in Minnesota seems to have reached the bizarre conclusion that his radical political motives somehow excuse, rather than exacerbate, his wrongdoing,” McConnell wrote, according to Fox News. “It is critically important for lawful authority to deter those who would intimidate their political opponents through violence or its threats. It is therefore shocking that the former acting U.S. attorney in Minnesota saw things differently, presumably because he bears some sympathy for the cause Mr. Lee violently supported. That is unacceptable.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote his own scathing critique of the Justice Department: “Showing leniency toward a career criminal who committed murder is bad enough. But justifying the murder because the career criminal shares the Biden administration’s politics is beyond the pale. The American people deserve to know whether leniency for left-wing murderers is the official policy of the Biden Department of Justice, or whether this travesty was a one-off.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) joined the backlash in a Wednesday letter to the DOJ. “It would appear that Mr. Lee is enjoying the benefits of kid-gloved, preferential treatment in this case because he committed violence in furtherance of the preferred political views of your office and the current administration,” Roy wrote, according to The Free Beacon.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.