For former Crawford County Coroner Patrick McHenry, who spent decades as a trooper with Pennsylvania State Police, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, are still very much a source of concern.

Most of McHenry’s concern, however, is aimed at the frustration he feels set the stage for those events — frustration that has continued to fester in the past year — and what he sees as unconstitutional overreach in the prosecution of those charged for their alleged actions a year ago.

In fact, McHenry’s frustration starts with the question of what to call those actions.

“It’s not an insurrection. I don’t like that word,” he said. “That’s crap — you had a lot of trespassing and that was it.”

McHenry characterized what happened Jan. 6 as “riots” and criticized the lack of security preparations. He also expressed sympathy for the frustrations felt by people who made their way to the Capitol that day, saying they had seen “their man” — Donald Trump — described as “incompetent when he hasn’t been allowed to do his job for four years.”

At the same time, McHenry questioned some of the more extreme actions seen in news coverage, referring to the people involved as “dingbats.” His word choice, however, did not detract from McHenry’s grave view of the events.

“It was a giant storm just waiting to happen,” he said, “and it happened.”

Allegheny College political science professor Andy Bloeser, in contrast to McHenry, says the events at the Capitol a year ago consisted of violence “targeted at the government” and “unquestionably constitute an insurrection.”

Bloeser has already covered the insurrection in several classes and plans to return to the topic later this month when he teaches a class on politics and the media. The spectacle of violence at the Capitol is an obvious focal point, but Bloeser asks students to consider the factors that set the stage for Jan. 6 as well as continuing developments that he says leave the health of U.S. democracy “still under threat.”

In looking to the lead-up to the insurrection, Bloeser highlighted President Trump’s falsehoods regarding the election.

“The role of Trump is evidence of how American democracy can be threatened by someone elected by our democracy,” he said in an email. “This insurrection likely would not have happened if Trump had not sought to undermine a free and fair election.”

As for the aftermath, Bloeser draws attention to Republican resistance to accountability for Jan. 6 at the national level and efforts in some states to increase their control over state election boards, thus making it theoretically possible to more easily overturn future election results.

Noting the belief among political scientists that “when democracies die, they often die from within,” Bloeser said, “It is certainly not inevitable that American democracy will die from within, but the health of American democracy is currently being weakened and that warrants our collective concern.”

Kelly condemns

Congressman Mike Kelly of Butler, whose district includes northwestern Pennsylvania including all of Crawford, Mercer and Lawrence counties, said he condemns the actions of last year.

"On this anniversary, I once again condemn the violent actions of those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021," Kelly said. "Our Capitol should never be compromised, and those who broke the law should be held accountable.

"Moving forward, I encourage members of the House January 6th Commission to avoid partisan investigations and instead focus on ways to secure the Capitol so this type of violence does not happen again," Kelly said. "I stand with my fellow Americans to defend democracy on this day."

Who was charged from region

At least five residents of northwestern Pennsylvania have been indicted on federal charges stemming from their alleged roles in the attack on the U.S. Capitol complex.

Matthew Perna, 37, of Sharpsville pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 17 to felony obstruction of Congress and three misdemeanor charges associated with his entry into the Capitol. Perna remains free on personal recognizance bond awaiting sentencing March 3.

Rachel Powell, 41, of Sandy Lake faces a status hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington on Friday. She remains free on personal recognizance bond awaiting disposition of her case.

Jeremy Vorous, 34, of Venango remains free on $10,000 unsecured bond with multiple conditions awaiting a status hearing for his case March 7 in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Debra Maimone, 28, and Philip Vogel II, 34, both of New Castle, remain free on personal recognizance bond awaiting a joint status hearing for their cases Jan. 24 in U.S. District Court in Washington. 

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.comKeith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

 

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