More than 180 People Charged with Federal Crimes in Storming of U.S. Capitol Building
Nearly two hundred people are facing charges in federal court for illegally entering the Capitol building and committing other criminal acts in and around the Capitol as part of the insurrection that took place in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. An estimated 800 people stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6 in a concerted effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Five people were killed in the ensuing riot, including one Capitol Police officer who was assaulted with a fire extinguisher, and many more were injured. Not only did the attack on the Capitol mark the first time the Capitol building was breached since the War of 1812, but it was also one of the most well-documented crimes in U.S. history, a fact has aided federal investigators somewhat in their effort to bring those responsible for the insurrection to justice. After breaking through police barricades and breaching the Capitol building, a number of rioters stopped to take selfies, pose for photos or stream live videos from inside the 220-year-old building.
Insurrectionists Arrested and Charged in Capitol Breach
By the morning after the attack on the Capitol, 68 people had been arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department and another 14 had been arrested by the Capitol Police, many for violating curfew. Since then, many more arrests have been made in connection with the insurrection. Those currently facing criminal charges related to the Capitol breach hail from states all over the country, including Ohio, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New York, Texas, Montana, Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. These defendants will require the assistance of a knowledgeable, assertive criminal defense attorney who can explain the significance of the charges against them, protect their legal rights and develop the best defense strategy for their case.
To date, federal law enforcement officials have arrested and filed charges against more than 183 individuals for allegedly taking part in the storming of the Capitol building, and additional investigations are ongoing. It is expected that many more people will be criminally charged and prosecuted in the coming weeks and months, as the multiagency investigation into the attack on the Capitol continues. “There is absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable,” said Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi in a recent email. “We have consistently made clear that we will follow the facts and evidence and charge individuals accordingly. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC can appropriately handle the docket related to any resulting charges.”
Insurrectionists Will be Prosecuted “to the Fullest Extent of the Law”
The coordination of the attack on the Capitol and the sheer number of alleged participants from all over the country has sparked concern nationwide about potential future acts of violence in protest of the presidential election results, a concern the federal government has sought to quell. “We are resolute in our commitment to holding accountable anyone responsible for these disgraceful criminal acts,” said the acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, in a press release issued by the Department of Justice on January 8, at which time 13 people had been charged in federal court in relation to crimes committed at the Capitol and dozens of others had been arrested and charged in Superior Court with offenses like unlawful entry and firearms-related crimes. “To anyone who might be considering engaging in or inciting violence in the coming weeks – know this: you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
What Crimes Can Be Charged Against Insurrectionists?
That promise Sherwin made to prosecute the Capitol insurrectionists “to the fullest extent of the law” begs the question: What is the fullest extent of the law in this situation? In other words, exactly what crimes can the Capitol insurrectionists be charged with for their alleged involvement in the U.S. Capitol building breach? As it turns out, the answer is quite a few, including some crimes that carry a maximum penalty of decades in prison, among other significant consequences. Some of the more serious federal offenses the Capitol insurrectionists could potentially face for their participation in the storming of the Capitol building are detailed below.
18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or Insurrection
This statute can be used to charge any person who “incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto.” A person convicted on charges of federal rebellion or insurrection faces imprisonment in federal prison for up to 10 years and is barred from holding any office under the United States.
18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious Conspiracy
Seditious conspiracy is another serious federal crime carrying a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. The crime can be charged in any case where two or more people “in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”
18 U.S. Code § 2101 – Riots
Pursuant to 18 U.S. Code § 2101, federal charges for rioting can be brought against any person who “travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including, but not limited to, the mail, telegraph, telephone, radio, or television,” for the purpose of inciting a riot; organizing, promoting, encouraging or participating in a riot; committing any violent act in furtherance of a riot; or aiding or abetting any person in inciting or participating in a riot. Federal rioting carries a prison term of up to five years.
Charges that Have been Filed Against Insurrectionists So Far
The penalties associated with federal crimes like rioting, seditious conspiracy and insurrection are severe, but the federal government has yet to bring these charges against any of the individuals accused of participating in the Capitol insurrection. The Justice Department has published a list of defendants who have already been charged in federal court in connection with crimes allegedly committed at the Capitol building on January 6. These charges include the following:
- Making interstate threats
- Knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority
- Violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds
- Theft of public money, property or records
- Possession of an unregistered firearm
- Carrying a pistol without a license
- Assaulting a federal law enforcement officer
- Carrying or having readily accessible a firearm and ammunition on U.S. Capitol building grounds
- Knowingly engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to impede government business
- Obstructing law enforcement engaged in official duties
- Destruction of government property
- Civil disorder
As the aggressive investigation into the Capitol insurrection continues, it is possible that other federal charges could be added to those that are already being pursued against those accused of participating in the historic breach. In an interview with NPR on January 10, Sherwin indicated that when all is said and done, there will likely be a wide range of criminal charges filed in federal court, ranging in severity from destruction of federal property to theft of national security information to murder. Sherwin reported at a press conference two days later that the FBI had opened more than 170 subject files and was expecting the number of criminal charges to reach into the hundreds. On January 15, Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, stated that the agency had identified more than 270 suspects in the insurrection at the Capitol building and had taken 100 people into custody.
Federal, State and Local Agencies Investigating Capitol Insurrection Cases
These Capitol insurrection cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and they are being investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Capitol Police Department, and the Metropolitan Police Department, in coordination with other local, state and federal agencies. “To be clear, what took place that day was not First Amendment-protected activity, but rather an affront on our democracy,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a press release issued by the Justice Department. “The FBI, along with our local, state and federal partners, is committed to ensuring that justice is served. We will continue to aggressively investigate each and every individual who chose to ignore the law and instead incite violence, destroy property, and injure others.”