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Former WAER Reporter on Capitol Riot Cases, Importance of Syracuse Defendant, & Racial Significance of Trials

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Northern District of NY
Matthew Greene (R) was in court changing his plea to 'guilty in Capitol Riot case; MBC4 Washington reporter Scott MacFarlane tells WAER about the significance of this and other cases.

A Syracuse and WAER alum has a front-row seat on the largest criminal investigation in US history, the January 6th attack at the U-S Capitol. Scott MacFarlane graced our airwaves back in the late 1990s ... and now is an investigative reporter at NBC in Washington D.C. Covering the trials of 700 defendants was a perfect match of his main beats – the capital and the federal courthouse. One of the most significant cases was in court this week with a defendant from Syracuse.

“Matthew Greene is among the highest profile and the highest level defendants.  He’s accused of conspiracy, of plotting and planning, of organizing that unprecedented day.  Greene has pleaded guilty, and it is arguably one of the, if not the, biggest moments and ‘gets’ for the US Justice Department so far.”

Greene is a member of the Proud Boys. MacFarlane says members of other groups such as the Oathkeepers have agreed to work with prosecutors. Greene is the first Proud Boy to do so. He’s spent time pouring through court documents and following proceedings, even on cases with less serious charges. And, he argues, there’s more on trial here than the defendants.

“How does the justice system view an overwhelmingly white number of defendants accused of assaulting police, versus how the Justice Department has handled, historically, people of color who have assaulted police.  If you don’t watch these January 6th cases, you may be missing disparities or concerns about racial inequities in the justice system.”

He says keeping tabs on each and every case is as exhausting as you might imagine. However, the significance and rising interest in these cases is not lost on MacFarlane.

“This was a horrific moment that traumatized some number of Americans.  And at this point there have been zero trials; zero high-level defendants have spent a day in jail yet, and unanswered questions abound.  It has transformed American politics, American culture and the American justice system.  So, it’s not lost on anyone involved … this was a moment that was singular in American history but also continues to resonate and impact America.”

Hear more of Scott MacFarlane's interview with WAER News Director Chris Bolt. He shares importance of ALL the Capitol riot cases, as well as memories of CNY and a significant investigative story he uncovered that changes laws.

Before rising to the prominent reporting position in D-C, Scott worked at in Syracuse and at WAER in the late 1990s. He remembers Central New York as being particularly welcoming and his time here valuable, even today.

“There are days when I’m asked to speak to a million people at once, without a script.  They’re going to judge me by my grammar, by my diction, but how enterprising what I say is, how worthwhile it is.  And if I didn’t have hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions at the microphone at WAER, I wouldn’t be capable of doing the thing they pay me to do.” 

Scott MacFarlane’s reporting on the Capitol riot cases can be found at N-B-C Washington-dot-com, on M-S-N-B-C and on twitter: @ MacFarlane News.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.