By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist
On a normal day, Joseph Hackett would be seeing clients in his chiropractic clinic. On a normal day, he might stop for groceries on the way home from work, mow the lawn or relax with his wife, Deena and their eleven-year-old daughter in their Sarasota, Florida home.
But today is not a normal day. They will have to do without his income. They will have to mow the lawn and fetch the groceries without his help.
Nothing has been normal for them since May 28 when a swarm of FBI agents descended on their home. Joe was whisked to a courtroom in Tampa. His wife and child were kept out of the house while the FBI rifled through their belongings for hours.
In Tampa, Joe was denied bail and passed from lockup to lockup until on June 28, he landed in Washington D.C. There he sits in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. This is not normal. Federal law requires that bail be set, except for two narrow conditions: 1) flight risk; 2) danger to the community. It is extremely difficult to see how Joe’s case meets either criterion.
Court documents allege that Hackett was in the U.S. Capitol rotunda from 2:45pm on January 6 until 2:54pm. Whether this is true or not can await a proper trial. My concern today is the injustice of denying bail and the inhumane conditions of his detention.
Likely, I would know none of this if fellow pastors from across the nation had not asked me to inquire if any of at least 61 others similarly situated are receiving their constitutional rights to pastoral care. After more than a month of searching, I still do not know the answer.
Last week, Missouri Congresswoman, Vicky Hartzler, formally asked Attorney General Merrick Garland for an answer to this and seven other questions. He ignored her July 28 deadline. Nor can we know how many have been denied bail since the Department of Justice’s database neither provides the information for every arrestee nor does it even list Joseph Hackett. How many others are detained but not listed?
Especially in a highly charged political climate, it is vital for America that we maintain the formalities of justice. These people are, in fact, “innocent until proven guilty.” The government may, in the course of time, prove them guilty of crimes connected with January 6. But, until that time comes, every American should expect that they be treated as innocent people, because they are.
The reason for this bedrock principle is evident. Punishment—whether fines, incarceration, or death—cannot be undone. Should Hackett be given bail today, or exonerated tomorrow, still his chiropractic business is destroyed. The hours robbed from raising his daughter are irretrievable. Lost months with his wife cannot be returned. Nor will there be any just compensation for income denied. The trauma of solitary confinement—acknowledged as torture by the U.N.—cannot be erased.
On the very day that Congresswoman Hartzler sent her letter to Merrick Garland, a judge in Hong Kong denied bail to four reporters from the Apple Daily. The Chinese Communist Party found that “there was not enough evidence to show that the defendants will not commit further acts endangering national security.” That is essentially the same reason given for denial of bail to Hackett and the others. We expect that of Communists, but not of the American justice system.
In the heat of this political moment, Marxist Critical Theorists are trying to divide us and pit us against one another. Race-baiting is only part of the story. They are also working to create an unbridgeable divide between Democrats and Republicans, Christians and secularists, Wyoming hicks and Wyoming woke. Then, having cast people into arbitrary groups, they ignore individual circumstances and particular facts and find guilt by association.
Such is also the case here.
Three-score individual lives are being subsumed in a narrative. Instead of treating the cases of Joe Hackett, Ron Mele, Sgt. Kenneth Harrelson, Scott Fairlamb, Couy Griffin, Derek Kinneson, Erik Warner, and dozens more as distinct cases with unique circumstances, you are told that they are “insurrectionists,” “domestic terrorists,” “Oath-Keepers,” “Three-percenters” or some other impersonal group label.
Do not fall for it. The core of justice is equal treatment under law. Membership in some group should neither privilege or penalize a person. It is the government’s burden to prove guilt from facts and evidence—not to advance group narratives for political gain. The former is justice, the latter is not. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Martin Luther King from the Birmingham jail. It is the duty of Americans everywhere to learn the facts and to stand for individual rights anywhere they are threatened.