Rep. Buck tells Colorado GOP leaders to stop spreading misinformation about Jan. 6 defendants

A Republican member of Congress from Colorado rejected claims in a letter from state GOP officials that people who were arrested for participating in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol are being treated unfairly while in custody, and he urged state Republicans to stop spreading misinformation.

“There has been significant misinformation proliferated on the Internet about the status of the January 6 defendants, and I assume the Internet rumors are the source for much of the incorrect information contained in the letter. I hope this response will help clarify the situation and that you will cease disseminating false information,” a Sept. 1 letter from Rep. Ken Buck reads. “It is sad that Republican leaders are misdirecting their energy and resources of Republican activists at a time when this country is facing crises after crises as a result of the failed policies of the Biden administration.”

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On Aug. 22, five Colorado Republicans — El Paso County Republican County Vice Chair Todd Watkins; the county’s GOP chair, Vickie Tonkins; Colorado GOP secretary Anna Ferguson; and state Reps. Scott Bottoms and Ken DeGraaf — solicited support from other Republicans in the state for a letter they then sent to U.S. representatives from Colorado.

That letter, written by Watkins and distributed by Ferguson from her Colorado Republican Party email, claimed that Jan. 6 defendants have been “grossly mistreated and abused by our legal system.” Watkins claimed these defendants have been detained without bond for misdemeanor offenses, have been denied medical care, have been physically abused and have been denied contact with their attorneys, among other assertions that the defendants’ constitutional rights have been violated.

More than 200 Colorado Republicans signed on to support the letter, according to Buck’s response.

In his response, Buck refuted the letter’s allegations. He noted that all defendants were arrested after being charged with a federal crime and that those held without bond were charged with felonies, such as assaulting a law enforcement officer or possession of a deadly weapon on Capitol grounds. Many of the misdemeanor defendants were granted a personal recognizance bond, on the promise that they would appear in court.

“If you believe I am relying on incorrect data, please provide me with the names of the January 6 defendants who have been detained without bond, for misdemeanor charges, or pending federal charges. You claim that hundreds fall into this category, so surely you can provide me with a dozen names,” Buck wrote, addressing Watkins.

Buck also responded to claims that Jan. 6 defendants are being treated worse than other people incarcerated at the Washington D.C. jail where they are held. He wrote that the jail in general is a “miserable place” that has been a constant concern for civil rights activists but that Jan. 6 defendants are not singled out for their political beliefs for worse treatment.

The defendants are held in restrictive housing, Buck wrote, due to concerns for their safety if they are with the general population. That comes with limited visits and obstacles to meeting with an attorney, but Buck wrote that the courts have made accommodations to make sure attorneys have enough time to meet with the defendants before hearings and trial.

Finally, Buck wrote that the allegation that Jan. 6 defendants’ constitutional rights were being violated is untrue.

“While many Jan. 6 defendants have decried the process they face as unfair, it is the process every federally indicted criminal defendant in this country goes through. That is not to say that reforms to our criminal justice system are unnecessary, but for you to argue that this specific set of defendants have been singled out and denied due process is misleading,” he wrote.

There have been 22 Coloradans charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot, according to a database maintained by NPR.

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