Brief # 8 Social Justice
Status Update on the Prosecution of Capitol Rioters
By Erika Shannon
February 5, 2021
On January 6th, as Congress was counting electoral votes, a crowd of far-right extremists rioted outside and eventually made their way into the Capitol building. Their actions prompted members of Congress, as well as former vice-president Mike Pence, to go into hiding and leave their session behind. Criminals sat in the offices of congressmen and congresswomen, and in the end lives were lost. Many people view the actions of these extremists as terrorist acts, for they were attempting to interfere with the results of an election that was already deemed fair by the DOJ and FBI. Whether they will be charged as terrorists or not, the Justice Department will be pursuing criminal charges against as many of the protest attendees as possible. It is no secret that the path to a trial is not always speedy here in the U.S., so many of those involved with the January 6th riots have only been charged and have not yet been tried for their crimes.
As of Friday, January 8th, thirteen people had been charged federally and forty people had been charged at the state level. According to the Department of Justice website, six individuals were charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; or knowingly, with intent to impede government business or official functions, engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” Their names are Cindy Fitchett, Michael Curzio, Douglas Sweet, Bradley Ruskelas, Terry Brown, and Thomas Gallagher. Other individuals involved were charged with varying crimes; Cleveland Meredith was charged with “making interstate threats to Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” Richard Barnett was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; and theft of public money, property, or records. Barnett allegedly entered a restricted area of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,” Lonnie Coffman was charged with “possession of an unregistered firearm (destructive device) and carrying a pistol without a license.” He also was allegedly carrying eleven explosive devices in his vehicle. Mark Leffingwell was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; assault on a federal law enforcement officer; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” Leffingwell had allegedly entered the Capitol building and struck an officer in the helmet and chest. Christopher Alberts was charged “with carrying or having readily accessible, on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building, a firearm and ammunition. Specifically a Taurus G2C, 9mm handgun and 9mm caliber ammunition.” Interestingly enough, Alberts was released after appearing in district court. Joshua Pruitt was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.” Joshua Pruitt was also released after appearing in district court. Matthew Council was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” and allegedly pushing an officer when he was stopped inside the Capitol building.
Since the January 8th press release by the Department of Justice, there have been many other arrests related to the Capitol riots. Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for Washington DC, says that 135 suspects have been arrested out of the 400 identified in relation to the Capitol incident. Other updates include the arrest and release of Riley June Williams, whose charges include “aiding and abetting the theft of government property.” She claimed to have had Speaker Pelosi’s laptop, although it has not been found, and she was actually released from jail and is under electronic monitoring at her mother’s home. Kevin Seefried and his son, Hunter, were jointly charged with “entering a restricted building, violent entry, and disorderly conduct.” John Sullivan was charged with “entering a restricted building and violent entry or disorderly conduct,” and was then released from jail without bail. Eric Gavelek Munchel and Larry Rendell Brock, individuals who were seen carrying plastic zip ties and white flex cuff, were charged with “disorderly conduct and violent entry.”
While any and all arrests involving January 6th rioters are certainly victories towards justice, there are some arrests that have been made which involve some supposedly key players in planning an executing the storming of the Capitol. Some of these people stand out more than others for their willingness to voice, and sometimes wear, their ignorance for everyone to notice. Robert Keith Packer, a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie on the day of the riots, was arrested and charged with “trespassing in a federal building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.” The QAnon Shaman, Jake Angeli, was charged with “violent entry and disorderly conduct,” and was photographed inside the Capitol Building wearing a fur hat, horns, and a painted face. Doug Jensen, a member of QAnon, faces five different federal charges, including “violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.” Jensen was seen in a video from that day chasing a police officer up a flight of stairs in the Capitol Building. Nick Ochs, of the Proud Boys, was charged with “unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds” after a picture of him smoking a cigarette inside the Capitol Building was circulated around social media. Derrick Evans, a Republican delegate from the West Virginia state legislature, was charged with “trespassing and disorderly conduct.” He also resigned from his seat in the state legislature.
In addition to the arrests already listed, more arrests are being made everyday related to the Capitol riots. While the DOJ feels confident that they are doing all they can to arrest anybody involved with actually planning and carrying out the riots, there have also been small-time arrests made. Some of these people are being charged federally, many are being charged at a state level for things like trespassing or disorderly conduct. Some of the arrestees include Nicholas Rodean, Aaron Mostofsky, William Pepe, Andrew Williams, Josiah Colt, Adam Johnson, Jenny Cudd, Klete Keller, Robert Sandford, Jacob Fracker, Thomas Robertson, John Schaffer, Tam Pham, Joseph Randall Biggs, Suzanne Ianni, Mark Sahady, Jorge Riley, Samuel Camargo, and Michael Joseph Foy. Most charges are for trespassing or disorderly conduct, but some are being charged with assault or obstructing justice. One of the most recent charges filed was against Patrick Edward McCaughey III, who is charged with “assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees; civil disorder; entering restricted building or grounds; and violent entry or disorderly conduct.” The charges against these rioters will hopefully stick as we see more of them arrested and charged in the coming weeks.
Many of those who went to the Capitol riots felt that they were doing something to help ascertain justice for President Trump; weeks later, it is clear that could not be further from the truth. The election has been declared as fair, and a new President has taken his seat, just as everybody has suspected would happen. The actions of those present on January 6th were abhorrent and unnecessary.
January 6 is something that will undoubtedly keep coming back to haunt them, and even if they do not see any real jail time, that day has changed their lives. They will never be able to hide their racism under the guise of being a tolerant white person; their faces are plastered all over the Internet and social media for everybody to see. As more arrests are made and charges are filed, we will continue to provide updates.
- To provide a tip or digital media from January 6th, please visit this FBI webpage.