It’s clear The New York Times is selectively concerned about jail conditions for politically controversial inmates and defendants -- depending on whether they are pro- or anti-Donald Trump.
In one corner, we have Benjamin Weiser’s sympathetic, wholly credulous story about disgraced anti-Trump lawyer and former liberal media darling, “Once a Trump Foil, Michael Avenatti Says Jail Treatment Was Payback,” made Friday’s edition.
Avenatti was tried and convicted for trying to extort Nike out of $25 million. Jailed in January 2020 and released in April 2020 at the height of the first wave of the Covid pandemic, he's presently under home confinement.
Now the litigation-happy lawyer is (shocker!) filing a lawsuit, this time against the federal government, in which he accuses the government of political persecution for his spending 94 days in solitary confinement, mistreatment allegedly purveyed by former Attorney General Bill Barr.
Yet this same newspaper contemptuously downplayed claims of appalling jail conditions at the D.C. jail, when they emanated from pro-Trump “January 6” defendants, even playing the race card to denigrate the charges. Yet The Times found a convicted liar and anti-Trump partisan hack credible:
Michael Avenatti, who rose to prominence as the lawyer representing a pornographic film actress in lawsuits against former President Donald J. Trump and was later convicted of trying to extort Nike, is seeking millions of dollars in compensation for harsh jail conditions that he says were retaliation for his outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump.
“They treated him very differently than anybody else in prison,” one of his lawyers, Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, said on Thursday. “Once they had him in custody, they held him in a unit for violent criminals and terrorists.”
This was Avenatti’s most interesting claim.
When he asked for reading material, he said in his claim, he was initially refused and was then provided one book: “Trump: The Art of the Deal.”….According to Mr. Avenatti’s claim, “The employee explained that the orders came from the attorney general” -- William P. Barr at the time.
Barr called the claim “ridiculous.”
That’s certainly not the tone the paper took with the defendants taken into custody after the Capitol Hill riots. Here was a November 2021 story by Alan Feuer that felt distinctly unsympathetic:
For several months, a few dozen men being held without bail in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have loudly and repeatedly complained about conditions at the District of Columbia jail.
Some, through their lawyers, have raised concerns about threats from guards, standing sewage, and scant food and water....
None of these allegations of neglect came as a surprise to local Washington officials, many of whom have complained about conditions at the jail for years. Still, at a public hearing this week, some expressed frustration that, despite longstanding problems at the jail, it took the arrival of a small group of out-of-town -- and largely white -- defendants to finally get anyone to care.
(Incidentally, Michael Avenatti is also white.)
Feuer's strikingly petulant take on prison reform concluded with more racial pot-stirring:
Patrice Sulton, the executive director of the DC Justice Lab, an organization that advocates criminal justice reform, said she was particularly frustrated that it took complaints from the recently arrived Jan. 6 defendants, most of whom are white, to get the authorities to focus on the plight of detainees at the jail, almost all of whom are Black.
“It just doesn’t sit well,” Ms. Sulton said.