Thousands of violent insurrectionists broke into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 leaving millions of Americans glued to their screens as a dark moment in the country’s history unfolded before their eyes. They came from across the country, some affiliated with known far-right extremist groups, while others banded together solely under the name of former President Donald Trump. As he is awaiting impeachment hearings for inciting the riot that resulted in the deaths of five people, federal prosecutors have been tasked with identifying, locating, and charging rioters for their involvement.
On Tuesday, we saw one of the first of many court appearances from alleged insurrectionists. A Florida couple, Dana Winn and Rachael Pert literally sprinted out of a courthouse in Middleburg to avoid questions from reporters about their involvement in the events in Washington DC. They each have been charged with unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. As investigations continue, no doubt, we will be seeing many more moments like this.
“People are going to be shocked by some of the egregious contact that happened in the Capitol,” Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said during a press conference earlier this month. “So the picture is going to build. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what happened within the Capitol, and it’s going to come into laser focus I think over the next weeks and days.”
Sherwin said that swift arrest rates are expected to plateau as there are only so many identifiable insurrectionists from viral videos and photos of the riots. Soon, prosecutors will be setting their sights on building more complicated cases related to militia groups who coordinated during the attack, reports CBS News. Here is what we know so far about the arrests.
How many Capitol rioters have been charged so far?
As of Tuesday, federal prosecutors have charged at least 158 people in federal court and opened more than 400 investigations into possible criminals. Sherwin described the list of suspects as “growing by the hour.”
What are the charges for Capitol rioters?
The majority of alleged insurrectionists are charged with minor crimes like misdemeanor trespassing, reports CBS News. Prosecutors intend to add charges for more serious crimes as evidence becomes available. In a press conference a week after the attack, Sherwin said that “almost all” of the cases federal prosecutors have charged so far involve “significant federal felonies” meaning the potential sentences range anywhere from five to 20 years.
More specifically, at least 74 people have been charged with “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” which carries a possible sentence of up to six months in prison. But, if a defendant also receives a weapons violation, this sentence can increase to up to five years. Additionally, fifteen people were arrested for allegedly assaulting an officer. This crime, depending on the circumstances, carries a penalty of one to 20 years. These charges will become more specific as prosecutors have a chance to review body camera footage. It is likely that more people will be charged with crimes related to assaulting police officers. Finally, at least six people were charged with felony theft of public property, a charge that can result in up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Have any Capitol rioters worked in law enforcement?
So far, several people who stormed the Capitol have some sort of military or law enforcement background. At least seven rioters are veterans and two currently serve in the U.S. military, according to CBS News. As far as police officers, at least four people who allegedly took part in the riot worked in law enforcement at the time. All have since left their jobs.
How many Capitol rioters were affiliated with extremist groups?
This number is a bit more difficult to ascertain. Authorities know of at least 19 alleged insurrectionists with known connections to extremist groups including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and QAnon. While exact involvement remains unclear, members of these and other extremist groups were identified in reports given to the FBI prior to the attack on the Capitol.
What is the FBI currently investigating around the Capitol riot?
The FBI is currently in the process of identifying as many people involved as possible. Furthermore, they are trying to establish connections between insurrectionists and extremist groups. As perhaps one of the most documented crimes in modern history, investigators have no shortage of footage and photographic evidence to review before getting into less documented participants.
“The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history but probably DOJ history,” Sherwin said earlier this month describing Capitol grounds as a "crime scene." Federal law enforcement has issued more than 500 search warrants and grand jury subpoenas. More than 200,000 digital media tips from people hoping to help identify people and share evidence have been given to the FBI. And while over one hundred people have been charged for their alleged involvement, hundreds of more investigations remain open.