Jan. 6 victims frustrated over Supreme Court ruling on Trump immunity

Washington — Some have started text message chains. Others have gathered together to vent on Zoom. One wrote a letter by hand, fearing the end of “‘The Great Experiment’ that was the United States of America.”

Many of the victims and the families of those who were attacked in the Jan. 6, 2021, siege of the Capitol are sharing the frustration, anger and “re-traumatization” they feel after the Supreme Court ruled that former President Donald Trump enjoys immunity for “official acts” he took while in office. The decision upended the case brought against Trump by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington related to Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

The Supreme Court ordered the district judge overseeing the case to reevaluate whether the conduct Trump is charged with constituted official acts, including allegations related to his role in the Jan. 6 attack. With a trial now delayed indefinitely, the families and victims are reaching out to each other — and to media outlets — to voice their disappointment and fears.

“The recent decision by the [Supreme Court] was appalling and should frighten every citizen of the United States,” said Craig Sicknick, whose brother Brian was a U.S. Capitol Police officer who died of a stroke one day after defending the Capitol from the riotous mob.  

In a letter he drafted after the court’s ruling that he shared with CBS News, Sicknick wrote that his family “has been through hell.”    

“The courts of the United States are supposed to rule on punishment of people who broke the laws of our country, regardless of color, gender, wealth, political position, fame, and any other differences we may have as individuals,” the letter said. “We have learned once again that this concept is false with the very wealthy literally getting away with whatever they want.”

The mother of a congressional staffer who was trapped by the mob on Jan. 6 exchanged text messages with others, calling the Supreme Court ruling “crushing” and expressing skepticism about the prospects of Trump facing trial in Washington due to the ruling. Another staffer texted others that the ruling is “re-traumatizing.”

In an online post on Monday, retired Capitol Police sergeant Aquilino Gonell wrote, “This ruling is profoundly upsetting, but unsurprising.” Gonell, who testified before the House committee that investigated the attack, suffered career-ending injuries stopping the rioters on the frontlines.

U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, left, and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell listen during a hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee on June 9, 2022.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, left, and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell listen during a hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee on June 9, 2022.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Gonell has frequently voiced support for Trump’s prosecution, and further criticized the court’s decision in a separate statement to CBS News. “The Supreme Court has effectively given MAGA extremists their seal of approval,” Gonell wrote. 

On a Monday conference call with media outlets organized by the Biden campaign, former Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn blasted the court, saying, “We can’t count on the Supreme Court or any institution to hold him responsible.”

Dunn, who has since left the Capitol Police and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for a U.S. House seat in Maryland last month, said on the Zoom call: “We went through what we went through on Jan. 6, and now the Supreme Court is saying, as long as it’s in [Trump’s] official capacity, that it’s OK.”

Rep. Norma Torres, a California Democrat who was trapped in the House chamber during the attack and was among the last lawmakers to be safely evacuated, posted her disappointment on social media. “No one is above the law, but the Supreme Court has shown us time and time how extreme they are, eroding the fabric of our democracy and placing Americans in danger,” she wrote on Monday.

The Sicknick family told CBS News the court’s decision was so “crushing” that they were forgoing media interviews. A family representative said Craig Sicknick’s written letter captured the disappointment of the family. 

His letter ended: “It is possible the damage that has been done to our nation by Trump may heal and we might move forward towards a better, stronger nation, but it is also very possible that this decision has doomed ‘The Great Experiment’ that was the United States of America.”

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