According to the DOJ, former U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin’s comments have been forwarded to the Office of Professional Responsibility for review.
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has referred the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility to see if his comments on ongoing rioting at the Capitol violate the department’s guidelines, an attorney told the prosecution against a group of oath guards levied Tuesday.
Sherwin’s comments, broadcast during a 60-minute segment on Sunday, were the subject of an emergency meeting convened by District Judge Amit P. Mehta on Tuesday. Mehta called the lawyers of nine alleged members of the Oath Guards indicted in the Capitol, along with officials from the Justice Department, to make it clear that he would no longer tolerate such press appearances.
It included comments from Sherwin, who resigned as acting US attorney earlier this month, about the possibility of sedition charges in the case and references to “specific evidence” during the 60-minute segment.
“Let me start by saying that I was surprised – and am reluctant to use my terminology – to see Mr. Sherwin in an interview about an ongoing investigation,” said Mehta.
Sherwin, who was appointed acting U.S. attorney by then Attorney General William Barr last year, oversaw the initial investigation and most of the more than 300 federal cases so far filed in connection with the Capitol uprising.
Mehta also says that he will not hesitate to sanction an attorney who violates local regulations on making a statement on pending criminal cases: “I will not tolerate additional media advertising that I believe may defend the rights of the community.” Defendant impaired. ”#CapitolRiot
– Jordan Fischer (@JordanOnRecord) March 23, 2021
Mehta said he found Sherwin’s comments inappropriate and if the DOJ makes further such comments in the future it could jeopardize the case. Mehta also said that additional such interviews could draw sanctions from him.
“I won’t hesitate to consider a gag order,” he said. “Nor will I hesitate to sanction a lawyer who breaks our local rules when it comes to making a statement on pending criminal cases.”
A representative from the DOJ said the department had set up “guard rails” to discuss how federal prosecutors talk about ongoing cases and said the Sherwin’s comments had been forwarded to the Bureau of Professional Responsibility for review. In that case, no members of the test team were involved in the interview.
While none of the lawyers representing the defendants made a formal appeal during the hearing, several said they too had been contacted within 60 minutes to comment and had declined. The attorney who represents alleged oath guardian Donovan Crowl, Carmen Hernandez, said she refused to speak for 60 minutes but decided to comment on the New York Times the following day because she supported Sherwin’s comments considered “very detrimental” to her client.
Despite Sherwin’s 60-minute testimony, no Capitol defendants have been charged with sedition and the government has not indicated in the court filing that such charges are currently pending.