How Capitol rioters have been charged in the aftermath of January 6, explained

How Capitol rioters have been charged in the aftermath of January 6, explained

The investigations have been huge, said acting US attorney Michael Sherwin. “The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history but probably DOJ history.”

More than 250 Capitol rioters have been charged by federal prosecutors for involvement in the insurrection in Washington, DC on January 6. The most recent addition to the growing list of individuals includes six members of the far-right group the Oath Keepers, who were charged with criminal conspiracy in their connection to the riots.

Though many of the initial charges filed against rioters were for minor crimes and misdemeanors such as trespassing, charges against those involved in the insurrection have grown in both number and severity as additional evidence has come to light.

Mass investigations

After asking the public for information related to those involved in the riots, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has received more than 200,000 digital media tips from citizens trying to share evidence. The FBI has now turned to its field offices across the country to farm the mass data it’s received through the tips.

Federal prosecutors are currently working with the United States attorney’s office in Washington, DC, where the investigation is being led from. Law enforcement officials estimate that the investigations could lead to up to 500 criminal cases being filed.

The sheer volume of cases could lead to an overload in Washington’s federal courts, which are already backed up by several months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal prosecutors are now moving to gain cooperation and guilty pleas from defendants, something that prosecutors say is necessary with major criminal investigations like this one. If obtained, such cooperation and guilty pleas could be the golden ticket to keeping federal courts from further filling up their already overloaded case schedules.

More than 500 grand jury subpoenas and search warrants have been served by federal law enforcement.

The investigations have been huge, said acting US attorney Michael Sherwin. “The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history but probably DOJ history.”

Who were the rioters?

With a more comprehensive picture of those involved in the riots, their background and affiliations, it is now clearer to ascertain who was involved that day.

The rioters came to Washington from more than 40 states. Of those who have been arrested, the most, 24, came from Texas. However, according to a report from the University of Chicago, the majority of protesters actually came from counties that Joe Biden won in the presidential election.

The median age of the protesters was around 40, which is quite high. Most extremists charged over the last five years in other protests have been under the age of 35, but from the Capitol attack, two-thirds of participants are over the age of 35. The group was predominantly white and male, but there were exceptions.

At least four of the alleged rioters were police officers at the time of the riots, though all have since left their jobs. Two of the officers resigned following their arrest and the other two were fired after being charged by prosecutors. A firefighter in Florida was also arrested after his participation in the riot was revealed.

At least 20 of the arrested individuals are veterans and three are currently enlisted in the military, according to CBS News. In a statement, the Army Reserve said, “The U.S. Army Reserve takes all allegations of Soldier or Army civilian involvement in extremist groups seriously,” adding that “Extremist ideologies and activities directly oppose our values and beliefs and those who subscribe to extremism have no place in our ranks.”

At least 31 of those facing federal charges are involved with militant groups, with some holding leadership roles. At least sixteen of them have ties to the Proud Boys, at least 10 have ties to the Oath Keepers and at least five have ties to other militant groups. An additional 14 of those charged have voiced a belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The wider case

As things move forward in both investigations and legal proceedings, a wider case surrounding the Capitol riots is beginning to take shape.

The charges filed against members of the Oath Keepers constitutes the largest conspiracy case in relation to the riots so far, with nine alleged participants after the arrests on Friday. This marks a shift toward a broader legal case that’s starting to be made against militant and right-wing conspiracy groups.

Additionally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to create a 9/11 style commission to investigate the attack, the goal of which would be to “investigate and report on the facts and causes relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex,” she wrote in a letter to Democrats.

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