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Should the Jan. 6 capitol riot be investigated or forgotten?

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2021 | Criminal Justice |

On Jan. 6, a flood of people stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Windows were crushed. Police barricades were broken. Lawmakers fled the building. Some of the rioters assaulted police officers. Others called for former vice president Mike Pence to be hanged.

The House of Representatives is determined to investigate despite a Republican filibuster of a bipartisan commission. Among the issues are whether former president Trump played a significant role in heating up the crowd. Just this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republican lawmakers from serving on the panel.

The FBI’s capitol riot investigation has so far resulted in 535 arrests and over 300 suspects remain unidentified. According to the FBI, those 300 unidentified people are believed to have committed violence at the Capitol, including more than 200 who are accused of assaulting police officers. Twenty-one rioters have pled guilty and at least 12 of those are cooperating with law enforcement.

What are the charges?

Some of the defendants have pled guilty to misdemeanors, while others have pled guilty to felonies. Here are some of the charges, according to the Justice Department:

  • Assaulting, resisting or impeding police officers or employees (165 defendants)
  • Using a deadly or dangerous weapon, or causing serious bodily injury to an officer (50 defendants)
  • Assaulting a member of the media or destroying media equipment (approximately 6 defendants)
  • Corruptly obstructing, influencing or impeding and official proceeding (or attempt) (about 235 defendants)
  • Conspiracy – coordinating with others to commit a criminal offense (about 40 defendants)
  • Entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds (nearly 495 defendants)
  • Entering the capitol with a dangerous or deadly weapon (over 55 defendants)
  • Destruction of government property (over 35 defendants)
  • Theft of government property (almost 30 defendants)
  • Terrorism (3 defendants)

The defendants came from at least 46 states. Many were members of the military or had been in law enforcement. At least 80 defendants have links to extremist groups.

On July 19, the first of the felony defendants pled guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding before Congress. He acknowledged that he had breached the Senate floor intending to disrupt the peaceful transition of power. He was carrying a Trump flag and a backpack with suspicious articles such as googles, rope and latex gloves.

The defendant was sentenced to eight months in prison. This was less than the 18 months prosecutors had requested. The judge agreed that there needed to be “severe consequences” for the attack but noted that the man was a first-time offender.

Let it pass or try to reach the truth?

Many of these allegations are quite troubling and involve serious threats and acts of violence. Most people probably believe that those who participated in the riot should be prosecuted, as long as their cases are handled fairly.

Will a House of Representatives Jan. 6 commission be effective at settling the many outstanding questions about the riot? Or will party politics get in the way? Will the commission complement the official FBI investigation, or will it tend to obfuscate or even interfere with it? What should be done?

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