FBI poster seeking information on violence at the Capitol published January 6, 2021
FBI poster seeking information on violence at the Capitol published January 6, 2021

On January 6, 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to overturn Trump's election loss by storming the capitol during a riot and violent attack against the U.S. Congress, disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes to formalize Joe Biden's victory.[1] By the end of the month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had opened more than 400 case files and issued more than 500 subpoenas and search warrants related to the riot.[2] The FBI also created a website to solicit tips from the public specifically related to the riot.[3] As of October 2021, more than 680 people have been charged with federal crimes.[4]

On January 7, Michael R. Sherwin, the interim United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said rioters could be charged with seditious conspiracy or insurrection.[5] He said any Capitol Police officer found to have assisted the rioters would be charged,[6] and he further suggested that Trump could be investigated for comments he made to his supporters before they stormed the Capitol and that others who "assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role" in the events could also be investigated.[5] As of January 14, the majority of charges filed were for disorderly conduct and unlawful entry.[7]

Also on January 7, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said that any rioter who entered the Capitol should be added to the federal No Fly List.[8] Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and inspector general David C. Williams argued Trump could face criminal charges for inciting the riot.[9]

Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin said "almost all" of the cases charged in federal court have involved "significant federal felonies" with sentences between five and twenty years.[10] Many have been charged with assault on law enforcement officers; "violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol ground";[10] trespassing; disrupting Congress; theft or other property crimes; weapons offenses; making threats; and conspiracy.[11] Some criminal indictments are under seal. The majority of cases are in federal court, while others are in D.C. Superior Court.[12]

Criminal investigations

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said that he is specifically looking at whether to charge Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and Mo Brooks with inciting the violent attack on the Capitol, and indicated that he might consider charging Donald Trump when he has left office.[13] Calls for Trump to be prosecuted for inciting the crowd to storm the Capitol also were made in the aftermath of the event.[14] D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, "We saw an unprecedented attack on our American democracy incited by the United States president. He must be held accountable. His constant and divisive rhetoric led to the abhorrent actions we saw today."[15] Legal experts have stated that charging Trump with incitement would be difficult under Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the Supreme Court ruling which established that for speech to be considered criminally inciting, it must have been intended to incite "imminent lawless action" and "likely to incite or produce such action".[16]

On February 10, CNN reported that the FBI, investigating the death of Brian Sicknick, was in the process of narrowing down a list of potential suspects.[17] On February 26, the agency reportedly identified one suspect of focus, according to sources.[18]

The New York Times reported in March 2021 that the FBI was investigating communications between an unnamed associate of the White House and an unnamed member of Proud Boys during the days prior to the incursion. The communications had been detected by examining cellphone metadata and were separate from previously known contacts between Roger Stone and Proud Boys.[19]

Investigations into alleged foreign involvement and payments

On December 8, 2020, a French national gave around $500,000 in bitcoin payments to alt-right figures and groups. About half of these funds went to Nick Fuentes, the leader of the online Groyper Army, who denied breaching the building. The day after the transfer, the Frenchman killed himself.[20] The FBI is investigating whether any of this money financed illegal acts.[21]

The FBI is also investigating whether foreign adversaries of the U.S. – governments, organizations or individuals – provided financial support to people who attacked the Capitol.[21]

Separately, a joint threat assessment issued by the FBI, DHS, and other agencies said that "Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition" and that these governments, through state actors, state media, and their proxies, used the riots to promote violence and extremism in the United States, denigrate American democracy, and in some instance promote conspiratorial claims.[21]

Numbers of people involved

The day after the storming of the Capitol, the FBI and D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department asked the public for help identifying the rioters.[22][23] The FBI has received more than 200,000 digital media tips from the public.[12][2] One person was harassed after being incorrectly identified as a participant in the riots by members of the public. His personal information had been doxed, and he reported receiving harassing phone calls and posts on social media.[24]

In a press conference on January 12, Steven D'Antuono from the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the agency's expectation to arrest hundreds more in the coming months, as it sorts through the vast amount of evidence submitted by the public. The charge brought against most rioters would likely include accusations of sedition and conspiracy.[25]

On January 8, the Justice Department announced charges against 13 people in connection with the Capitol riot in federal district court; many more have been charged in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.[26][27] The FBI and the Department of Justice were working to track down over 150 people for prosecution by January 11, with the number expected to rise. Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen instructed federal prosecutors to send all cases back to DC for prosecution, in a move that prosecutors across the county found "confounding".[28]

As of January 13, over 50 public sector employees and elected officials and over a dozen Capitol police officers were facing internal investigations to determine their possible complicity in the riot.[29]

As of October 2021, approximately 250 people were still wanted for assaulting police officers.[30]

Demographics

Though the number of people arrested is large enough to defy generalization, at least 17% were tied to extremist or fringe movements,[31] including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Patriot Front,[32] as well as the Texas Freedom Force.[10] The majority were not affiliated with a specific far-right group and had been more informally radicalized by right-wing Internet, social media, or television.[32][33] At least 15% had ties to the military or law enforcement.[31] About 40% were business owners or white-collar workers; only about 9% were unemployed.[32] A Washington Post review of public records showed that of defendants with enough information to identify financial histories, almost 60% had experienced financial problems over the preceding 20 years.[32] Some 18% had a past bankruptcy (nearly double the rate of the general public), 20% had prior eviction and foreclosure proceedings, 25% had been sued by a creditor for not paying money owed; and others had bad debt, delinquent taxes, or tax liens.[32] Many clearly expressed a belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory.[11] While the majority of those charged were men, 25 women were also charged.[10] Among those whose age was known, the average age was 41 years; the youngest charged was 18, and the oldest was 70.[10] Those who were arrested came from 42 states, with the largest numbers coming from Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.[10] At least 27 had previous criminal records;[33] with at least nine having been previously accused of, or convicted of, committing violence against women (including one who had served five years in prison for rape and sexual battery) or had been the subject of domestic violence restraining orders.[34]

Potential legal defense of arrestees

Several individuals in multiple states that have been arrested for their actions during the Capitol storming and riots have utilized the comments of then President Trump in their legal defenses. Others have stated similar comments to friends and family.[35][36] One arrested rioter was quoted by news sources stating, "I feel like I was basically following my president. I was following what we were called to do."[37] An ABC News investigation found that of about two hundred accused individuals facing federal charges, at least fifteen of them have made statements claiming that they had acted based on Trump's encouragement. One such individual, who also threatened to assassinate Rep. Ocasio Cortez during the riot, said, "I believed I was following the instructions of former President Trump. I also left Washington and started back to Texas immediately after President Trump asked us to go home."[38]

Several others held out for Presidential pardons from Trump prior to him leaving office, such as Jacob Angeli.[39] Albert Watkins, Angeli's lawyer, appeared on CNN in February 2021, and claimed that Angeli and millions of other Americans hung on every word of Trump and that Trump had used "Trump Talk" and propaganda to create the storming of the Capital. He also claimed that while Angeli was in police custody he was going through a process not unlike being deprogrammed from a cult.[40]

A news report from February 2021 reported that at least twenty-nine of the arrested individuals have raised claims that they believed that they were free to enter the Capitol during the riot, as law enforcement officers did not attempt to stop them from entering and never told them they were not allowed to enter the building.[41]

By the end of February, CNN was aware of "nearly a dozen" defendants who admitted that, to their knowledge, the other Capitol rioters were all Trump supporters and that the riot had not been (as Trump's lawyers and some congressional Republicans had attempted to claim) a left-wing "false-flag" performance to pin blame on Trump supporters.[42] On March 2, FBI Director Chris Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that there was no evidence that the rioters had been faking their support for Trump.[43]

By the end of August, according to CNN's tally, crowdfunding campaigns had raised over $2 million (combined) for the legal defenses of dozens of defendants.[44]

Specific arrests and charges

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (June 2021)
Interim United States Attorney Michael R. Sherwin holds a press conference on criminal charges related to the events at the Capitol
Interim United States Attorney Michael R. Sherwin holds a press conference on criminal charges related to the events at the Capitol

By February 1, 228 people from 39 states and DC had been charged with federal and/or DC offences.[45] By April 23, 439 people had been charged.[46] By early September, there were over 600 federal defendants, 10% of whom had pled guilty,[47] and hundreds more arrests expected to come.[48] By October 13, there were over 630 federal defendants and 100 guilty pleas, and BuzzFeed published a searchable table of the plea deals.[49]

Most defendants face "two class-B misdemeanor counts for demonstrating in the Capitol and disorderly conduct, and two class-A misdemeanor counts for being in a restricted building and disruptive activity," according to BuzzFeed, and therefore most plea deals address those misdemeanors. Some defendants have been additionally charged with felonies.[50]

An up to date list of Capital Breach Cases has been published by the US Attorney's Office, District of Columbia.[51]

January – March

April – June

August – October

Specific sentences

June 23

Anna Morgan-Lloyd, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor for trespassing inside the Capitol, was sentenced to three years probation, 120 hours of community service, and a $500 fine. She was the first January 6 trespasser to be sentenced.[155][156]

July 19

Paul Allard Hodgkins, who pled guilty to disrupting an official proceeding, was sentenced to eight months' incarceration, in the first felony conviction of a participant in the attack. The judge said: "That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest.... It was ... an assault on democracy;" and: "If we allow people to storm the United States Capitol, what are we doing to preserve our democracy?"[157]

August 5

Karl Dresch, from Calumet in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was arrested for Violent Entry. He was placed in custody and remained there for seven months until he pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was released due to time served.[158][159]

October 8

Robert Reeder, from Maryland, was sentenced to three months in jail and had to pay $500 in damages.[160]

October 22

Troy Smocks, from Dallas, TX, was sentenced to 14 months in jail. He has been charged with 17 other offenses since turning 18. [161]

November 4th

Jenna Ryan was sentenced to 60 days in jail and fined $500 in restitution. She had previously made brazen statements both publicly and on social media that she would never be incarcerated since she had "blond hair and white skin".[162]

November 10th

Scott Fairlamb, a gym owner and martial arts instructor from New Jersey, was accused of assaulting a police officer during the attack. He was found guilty and sentenced to 41 months in jail.[163][164]

Related threat conviction

On April 28, a 37-year-old Brooklyn man, Brendan Hunt, was convicted of making a death threat against unspecific congresspeople and senators, in a vlog around the time of the Capitol riots. Although Hunt was not in Washington on January 6, federal prosecutors cited the Capitol riots as relevant context that made such a threat more dangerous.[165][166]

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