The January 6 Attack, two years later
It’s been two years since the January 6 Attack on the Capitol and the courts system is still hearing cases against rioters. Most recently, the results of the second major sedition trial against members of “the far-right Oath Keepers” were determined, with four more members found guilty of “seditious conspiracy” and charged for conspiracy and obstructing Congress from certifying the election.
Sarah Lynch of Reuters explained that such charges are “rarely prosecuted” and represent a law from the Civil War era “that prohibits plotting to overthrow the government and carries up to 20 years in prison” as the punishment. In fact, Michael Balsamo of AP News notes that the last successful seditious conspiracy conviction was in the 1954 storming of the Capitol, nearly 70 years ago.
These charges are huge wins for the Department of Justice (DOJ), with Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post explaining that only 20 of the people “charged with committing crimes at the Capitol on Jan 6” were charged with seditious conspiracy, identified as “not just participants in a violent mob but also leaders using brutality to further a political plot.” However, the DOJ added that 50 defendants received charges of conspiracy, either for “conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding, conspiracy to obstruct law enforcement during civil disorder, conspiracy to injure an officer, seditious conspiracy, or some combination of the four.”
Michael Balsamo of AP News explained that the sedition charges are based on the allegations that Oath Keepers planned the insurrection weeks in advance, including discussions on how to overturn the election, weapons purchases, and “battle plans.” He furthered that such battle-like strategies were allegedly seen in the January 6 riots, with two groups of Oath Keepers in “stack formation” simultaneously confronting security officers and going after the House and Senate.
Thus far, Lynch explained, there’s been one other major sedition case with five defendants. There, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and another Florida-based leader were the only found guilty of seditious conspiracy, but “all five defendants were found guilty of obstructing Congress from certifying the election.” The DOJ added that an additional four of the sedition charges ended in the defendants pleading guilty. Alanna Richer noted that this sought to get a lighter sentence because they were working with the prosecution.
Another sedition trial is ongoing, this one with five members of the right-wing militant group the Proud Boys.
Sedition charges are not the only ones being brought against participants in the January 6 riots. Despite the fact that most rioters were not identified the day of the attack, Madison Hall of the Insider explained that with the help of the general public, the FBI has arrested and charged 978 people with crimes pertaining to January 6. However, they added, “only 475 federally charged rioters have entered guilty pleas so far,” and the DOJ’s task of investigating these crimes is still ongoing.
The breakdown of these crimes depends on the nature of the defendant's involvement in the January 6th riots. The DOJ explains that the range of charges against the more than 284 defendants includes “assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees” with 99 of them additionally charged with “using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer” — statistics that make sense considering there were around 140 officers that were assaulted on January 6th. Another 11 individuals were charged with assault or property damage pertaining to the media, 59 defendants have been charged with destruction of government property, and 36 were charged with theft of government property.
More generally, the DOJ furthers that 860 defendants were charged with “entering or remaining in a restricted federal building or grounds” with 91 of them entering such a restricted area “with a dangerous or deadly weapon.” 295 defendants also have charges of “corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding or attempting to do so.”
Overall, the events of January 6th, 2021 represent a complicated legal situation with many defendants receiving multiple charges, and as such, cases will continue to be determined for some time.