A federal judge demanded Tuesday that the Justice Department explain whether it followed its own media policy before charging a correspondent for Infowars with participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
U.S. Magistrate Zia M. Faruqui said he was not challenging the decision to prosecute Jonathan Owen Shroyer, only whether the prosecutors followed their own rules.
"The events of January 6 were an attack on the foundation of our democracy," Faruqui wrote. "But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy."
Shroyer was arrested this month on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Prosecutors allege he violated an agreement that he signed after being removed from a 2019 impeachment hearing for heckling a Democratic lawmaker.
DOJ guidelines require approval from the attorney general to investigate or charge a member of the news media with a crime.
Faruqui wrote that Shroyer's actions constituted probable cause that he committed a crime but that he was troubled that "the Department of Justice appears to believe that it is the sole enforcer of its regulations."
"That leaves the court to wonder who watches the watchmen," he said.