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Tipsheet

Sen. Cotton Demands AG Garland Answer for Lenient Sentence of BLM Rioter

Tom Williams/Pool via AP

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking that he address reports indicating that the U.S. Attorney's office requested that a rioter convicted of committing arson during the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots have their sentence significantly reduced.

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Montez Terriel Lee was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release for lighting a Minneapolis pawn shop on fire on May 28, 2020, just days after the death of George Floyd, according to the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He was caught on surveillance footage pouring accelerant around the shop and then igniting it. According to prosecutors, another video showed Lee saying "[Expletive] this place. We're gonna burn this [expletive] down" as the building was destroyed. The arson is believed to have resulted in the death of a 30-year-old man found in the rubble two months later.

In the letter, which was sent Monday, Cotton demanded Garland answer whether he believes "participation in a riot is a basis for leniency in sentencing individuals for violent crimes."

He also asked that the government address Lee's sentencing memorandum, which says he "does not appear to pose a danger to the public." The memo also stated that Lee had previously been convicted of burglary, domestic violence and theft.

"Please describe how the government concluded that Lee posed no danger to the community," Cotton wrote.

Cotton further requested that Garland "provide all communications between the United States Attorney's Office for Minnesota and any political appointees at the Department of Justice regarding the sentencing recommendation for Montez Lee."

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According to Cotton's letter, Lee's sentence should have been closer to 20 years and was only reduced because his crime "was committed during the BLM riots."

"In August 2020, the United States Attorney’s Office in Minnesota indicted Lee on one count of Arson and he pleaded guilty on July 22, 2021," Cotton wrote. "The sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of around 20 years. But the U.S. Attorney’s office filed a Sentencing Memorandum asking for half this time. Most shockingly, the U.S. Attorney defended Montez Lee and expressed sympathy for his murderous arson because Lee’s crime was committed during the BLM riots."

"Showing leniency towards a career criminal who committed murder is bad enough," he continued. "But justifying the murder because the career criminal shares the Biden Administration’s politics is beyond the pale. The American people deserve to know whether leniency for left-wing murderers is the official policy of the Biden Department of Justice, or whether this travesty was a one-off."

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