Capitol Riot Prosecution Updates
Social Justice Policy Brief # 24 | By: Erika Shannon | August 23, 2021
Header photo taken from: The Hill
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Photo taken from: Jurist.org
On January 6th of this year, several hundred people, attempting to disrupt the counting of electoral votes, breached the United States Capitol Building. The frenzy was caught on camera, Congressmen were whisked away, and some people even lost their lives. This insurrection itself was planned and executed by far-right white supremacist hate groups who could not live with the fact that former President Donald Trump lost the election to Joe Biden. The Department of Justice lists over 600 individuals who have been arrested and charged.
The Department of Justice ascertains that 165 defendants have been charges with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees; six individuals have been arrested on charges that relate to assaulting members of the media; 495 have been charged with entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds; 235 have been charged with corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding; 40 defendants have been charged with conspiracy.
The process of actually bringing the cases to trial is taking longer than expected. According to NPR’s database, over 40 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges; only six people have actually been sentenced. There was the initial idea that it would be easy to prosecute those who were responsible for the insurrection. However, all of the collected information (videos, pictures, GPS locations, livestreams) has overwhelmed prosecutors, who are struggling to sift through the evidence and build cases. There is the suggestion that Department of Justice officials are having issues finding prosecutors to assign to cases, ,which is slowing down the process as well.
The Department of Justice has laid down a framework for carrying out prosecutions, which divides defendants from January 6th into three different categories.
The first category are cases described as “tourist cases,” a term derived from a quote by republican representative Andrew Clyde from Georgia. This term encompasses those who went inside the Capitol Building and walked around, but did not damage property or assault law enforcement. The second category of defendants is made up of those who broke into the Capitol, damaged property, and attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Some of their charges may include civil disorder or assault. Prosecutors have not yet defined the third category; however, it is comprised of people who investigators believe are connected to right-wing extremist groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, or Three Percenters. Many of their charges are more complicated than others and hinge on whether or not the assault on the Capitol was planned in advance.
Photo taken from: Emptywheel
The ongoing status of the cases are updated regularly on the Department of Justice website, as well as NPR’s database with information on the January 6th riots. There are upcoming trials for individuals such as Dona Bissey, Andrew Bennett, and Cindy Fitchett, who have pleaded guilty to parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.
In addition to upcoming trials, we are still seeing people being arrested to this day over their involvement in the Capitol riots. Within the past ywo weeks two more defendants were arrested in a nine-person case involving assault on law enforcement. Steven Cappuccio of Texas and David Mehaffie of Ohio were arrested and charged with federal offenses that include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder, along with other charges.
In addition to the continuing arrests and charges being filed, the FBI is still looking for additional people involved with the Capitol riots. There is currently a $100,000 reward available for information leading to the location, arrest, and conviction of whoever is responsible for placing pipe bombs near the capitol the day before the insurrection. Even with all of the photographic and video evidence regarding the events on January 6th, there are still some key players at large and yet to be identified by authorities.
The road to prosecuting everyone involved with January 6th Capitol riots will be a long one; there’s still evidence to comb through and hundreds of people involved. The Department of Justice has many unanswered questions about the riots, such as whether or not the attack was planned in advance. FBI investigators continue to evaluate the hundreds of thousands of tips they have received since the attack in an attempt to piece together what unfolded that day and who exactly was involved.