September 28, 2022

EXPLAINER: Hundreds charged with crimes in Capitol attack

More than 800 people across the United States were charged in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which left officers bloodied and sent lawmakers into hiding, and federal authorities continue to make new arrests almost every week.

Charges against members of the angry pro-Trump crowd range from misdemeanors for those who only entered the Capitol to charges of seditious conspiracy against far-right extremists.

It’s the largest lawsuit in the history of the Justice Department, whose head, Attorney General Merrick Garland, has pledged to hold “all perpetrators of January 6, at all levels” accountable. .

As the U.S. House committee investigating the attack prepares to hold a series of public hearings to detail its findings, here’s a look at the status of the criminal cases:

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WHO WAS CHARGED?

Authorities have arrested people in nearly all 50 states in connection with the riot. Among them are former police officers and veterans of the US Army, a five-time Olympic swimming medalist and the son of a New York judge.

Hundreds of people who went inside but did not participate in any destruction or violence face only crimes like capitol picketing and disorderly behavior that require up to six months behind bars .

More than 250 people have been charged with assaulting or obstructing law enforcement trying to protect the Capitol, including more than 85 charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing grievous bodily harm to an officer. Others were charged with assaulting members of the media, including an Associated Press photographer, or destroying media materials.

The most serious cases have been brought against members of two far-right groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

Leaders of both groups have been arrested and remain locked up awaiting trial later this year on charges of seditious conspiracy, which alleges a plot to forcibly oppose the legal transfer of presidential power. The rarely used Civil War-era charge calls for up to 20 years in prison.

WHO WAS CONVICTED?

More than 300 people have pleaded guilty to a host of crimes, including conspiracy and assault. Among them are three Oath Keepers who have admitted seditious plotting, are cooperating with investigators and may testify against their fellow extremists at trial.

There have been seven trials in federal court for the District of Columbia so far. The first five juries convicted the riot defendants of all charges.

Among those convicted is Thomas Webster, a 20-year veteran of the New York Police Department who attacked an officer during the riot. Webster claimed he was defending himself when he tackled the officer and grabbed his gas mask.

Jurors also rejected the defense of an Ohio man who claimed he was only “following presidential orders” from former President Donald Trump when he stormed the Capitol. Dustin Byron Thompson was found guilty of preventing Congress from certifying the electoral vote and other charges.

A judge decided two other cases without a jury, acquitting one of the defendants and partially acquitting the other.

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, who was appointed by Trump, convicted Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin of unlawfully trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds, but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct.

In the other misdemeanor case, McFadden found Matthew Martin of New Mexico not guilty of charges of unlawfully entering the Capitol and engaging in disorderly conduct, saying it was reasonable for Martin to believe that outnumbered police had allowed him and others to enter through the rotunda. doors.

WHAT ABOUT PUNISHMENTS?

Nearly 200 people have been convicted so far. Sentences range from probation to more than five years behind bars. About 100 people charged with lesser crimes avoided going to jail, although some of them were placed under house arrest.

The longest sentence – more than five years – was given to Robert Palmer of Largo, Florida, who threw a plank of wood and sprayed a fire extinguisher at officers before throwing the extinguisher at them.

Others given long sentences include Jacob Chansley, the spear-wielding rioter, whose cocked fur hat, bare chest and facial paint have made him one of the most recognizable figures in the world. ‘offensive. Chansley, who called himself “QAnon Shaman,” spent about 3½ years behind bars after admitting to walking into the Senate Chamber and writing a note to Vice President Mike Pence saying, “It’s only ‘just a matter of time, justice is coming’.

AND AFTER?

The two most high-profile trials – involving the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – are expected to take place this summer and fall.

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who was once the Proud Boys’ top boss, and four others connected to the group were charged with seditious conspiracy on Monday after previously facing other conspiracy charges. They are to be tried from August 9.

Tarrio, who has since resigned as the group’s chairman, was arrested in a separate case two days before the riot and was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6. But he is accused of helping to trigger the violent attack.

The trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four other members and associates of the group is due to begin on September 26. Prosecutors say the Oath Keepers plotted for weeks to try to overturn the election results and prepared for a siege by buying weapons. and setting up battle plans.

Authorities are still looking for multiple suspects, including the one who planted two pipe bombs outside the offices of the Republican and Democratic National Committees the day before the melee.

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Follow Alanna Durkin Richer on Twitter at twitter.com/aedurkinricher