Two Pennsylvania men have been sentenced for torching a police car and attempting to burn another vehicle during last year’s protests over the murder of George Floyd. That is hardly surprising given videos showing the men involved in the arson. However, the case raises a long-standing concern over the use of federal rather than state charges in such protest cases.
Da’Jon Lengyel, 24, was sentenced Friday to 27 months in prison. Christopher West, 36, of Pittsburgh was ordered to serve four years. West received a more stringent sentence due to prior criminal history.
Notably, West still faces state charges over allegations that he took a news photographer’s camera. The question however is why these charges were not left in the state system. This was a Pittsburgh police car and the men were arrested by state, not federal, officers.
We previously discussed how state prosecutors have quietly handed over protest cases to federal prosecutors. The shifting of such cases ordinarily will produce longer sentences and, in some cases, insulates local leaders from backlash over prosecuting protesters.
The Biden Administration dropped dozens of protests charges against defendants from the protests last summer. Many of those charges involved efforts to burn or destroy federal buildings, which were more appropriately brought in the federal system.