WASHINGTON – A federal judge has denied a news media coalition's request for public access to records of court-ordered community service by one of the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol last year.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled Wednesday that Anna Morgan-Lloyd's community service records are not “judicial records” subject to public disclosure because they played no role in the judge's decision-making process.
Several news outlets, including The Associated Press, jointly requested access to the records of community service by Morgan-Lloyd, the first Capitol rioter to be sentenced. In June, Lamberth sentenced the Indiana woman to three years of probation and ordered her to perform 120 hours of community service.
Dozens of Capitol rioters have been ordered to perform community service as a condition of probation. Probation officers typically monitor a defendant's community service but do not publicly report on their compliance.
News outlets' lawyers argued that Morgan-Lloyd's community service records would shed light on a “vital but hidden aspect of the judicial process” and are “directly connected to an unprecedented episode in American history."
At her sentencing hearing, Morgan-Lloyd told Lamberth that she was ashamed of the “savage display of violence” at the Capitol. A day later, however, she told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that people were “very polite” during the riot, that she saw “relaxed” police officers chatting with rioters and that she didn’t believe the Jan. 6 attack was an insurrection.
News outlets' lawyers argued that public access to Morgan-Lloyd's records is particularly important because her sentence serves as a “bellwether” for many other cases. The lawyers also said her comments on Ingraham's show raise doubts about “the sincerity of her contrition and of her acknowledgment that she owes a debt to the community.”
"Public access to information detailing how (Morgan-Lloyd) completed her community service would shed light on the genuineness of her remorse and the degree to which probation serves as a fair and just response to the events of January 6," the lawyers wrote.
Lamberth concluded that Morgan-Lloyd's community service records do not tell the public “what transpired” during the adjudication of her criminal case. The records, he noted, “are almost entirely filled out by Morgan-Lloyd and supervisors at the various sites where she completed her community service.”
“At bottom, they provide no information to the public about how the Court reached a particular decision,” Lamberth wrote.
Morgan-Lloyd's lawyer opposed the news outlets' request, arguing that the records are confidential and that releasing them would violate her privacy rights.
Federal prosecutors did not take a position on the request.
More than 730 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the riot. At least 89 riot defendants have been sentenced after pleading guilty, mostly to misdemeanors. Judges have ordered at least 48 of them to perform between 40 and 250 hours of community service, according to an AP tally.
The other news outlets requesting the records were: CNN, ABC News, Buzzfeed, CBS News, The Wall Street Journal, The E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., Gray Media Group, The Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, NBC News, The New York Times, ProPublica, Tegna Inc. and The Washington Post.
Separately, the news outlets have requested access to the community service records of a Kentucky couple, Thomas and Lori Vinson, who pleaded guilty to riot-related charges. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced both of them in October to five years of probation and 120 hours of community service. Walton hasn't ruled yet on the news outlets' request.