Where do the January 6 lawsuits stand, 18 months after the attack?
So far, 325 defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes related to the Capitol breach, the vast majority to misdemeanors. But the most crucial tests of the Justice Department’s work are yet to come. The ongoing Jan. 6 panel hearings have produced compelling testimony that points to Trump’s knowledge of the potential for violence, and the trials of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys — groups accused of conspiring to violently prevent the transfer of power — are still months away.
Here’s a look at the latest prosecution, plea, and sentencing trends from January 6.
The perfect record of the DOJ jury trial
Eight defendants on Jan. 6 faced juries on felony charges stemming from their involvement in the attack on the Capitol, choosing that over taking plea deals offered by the Justice Department. All have been found guilty of all charges to date, whether it’s former New York police officer Thomas Webster, who was charged with assaulting an officer, or Dustin Thompson, who was accused of attempting to obstruct the work of Congress to certify the election. and looted the Senate parliamentarian’s office in the process.
The results have led to protests from Trump supporters that DC’s jury panel is simply too biased against those facing Jan. 6-related charges to reach fair verdicts. But some judges brushed off those arguments, pointing to the damning evidence the Justice Department has brought to the cases — including video recordings of the defendants’ actions, eyewitness accounts from the officers who pushed them back, and the boasts shared by many. rioters. on social networks.
The only acquittals were graciously entered by a single judge: U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden. Two defendants chose to waive their right to a jury trial and try their hand at McFadden, who has been particularly skeptical of the Justice Department’s treatment of defendants in the Jan. 6 misdemeanor. The Trump appointee acquitted defendant Matthew Martin of all four charges against him, saying Martin could have reasonably believed that Capitol police allowed him access to the building. He also acquitted Defendant Couy Griffin, a New Mexico County Commissioner, on one of two charges he faced for entering restricted Capitol grounds and staying for hours.
Prosecutors’ successful conviction rates at trial are likely to help the department secure guilty pleas from other similarly charged defendants who would prefer to avoid the same outcome.
The most important upcoming court cases to emerge from the January 6 attack revolve around two extremist groups: the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Both groups have seen their leaders charged with seditious conspiracy, and a slew of other related defendants also face felony charges. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and his key allies are set to face jurors in September, while former Proud Boys national president Enrique Tarrio and four alleged co-conspirators are on track for trial in December .
Trials of extremist groups
But the work of the Jan. 6 select committee — which shone a spotlight on the role of pro-Trump domestic extremists in the attack on Capitol Hill — has already impacted the timing of those trials and could continue to disrupt the timeline.
The committee plans to hold a hearing next week devoted entirely to Trump-world ties to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Several of those accused of conspiracy are likely to be identified by name and publicly depicted as part of efforts to prevent the peaceful transfer of power by force. Concerns about pretrial publicity, shared by the Justice Department, have already led US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly to move the Proud Boys trial from August to December.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta has yet to delay Rhodes’ trial last September, but the judge’s calculation may change depending on the select committee’s plans. The panel has signaled that it will likely release a final report and about 1,000 witness interview transcripts by September, many of which may relate to ongoing cases.
Very varied sentences
About 200 defendants followed their cases from arrest to conviction, the vast majority pleading guilty to misdemeanors. As a result, sentences were skewed toward probation and home confinement, rather than significant jail time. That is likely to change as some of those facing more serious charges are tried or plead guilty themselves.
In the growing number of felony plea agreements and jury convictions, defendants have been sentenced to months or even years in prison. But the sentences have varied widely, in part because of the 22 different U.S. district court judges handling the Jan. 6 cases. The harshest sentence to date was given to Robert Palmer, who was sentenced to 63 months in prison after pleading guilty to multiple assaults on police officers guarding the Capitol’s lower West Terrace tunnel.
The Trump Question
The Jan. 6 defendants have, with more frequency in recent weeks, raised questions about Trump’s own involvement in the escalation of violence that day. The living testimony of former White House adviser Cassidy Hutchinson – in which she described Trump’s gun awareness in the Jan. 6 crowd and his desire to march with supporters to the Capitol despite repeated pleas from his advisers against him – heightened attention on Trump’s role in stirring up the crowd.
The judges, for the most part, dismissed defendants’ arguments that Trump’s actions impact their own decisions to violate police lines or commit other crimes. Jurors rejected a similar argument raised by Thompson during his trial in April.
But the select committee hearings still spill over into ongoing criminal cases. One defendant, Anthony Williams, sought to delay his trial citing the hearings as prejudicial to his case. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in DC denied her motion, saying the hearings would benefit her if necessary.
« Why isn’t this theme actually serving this defendant, making him appear as a small cog in bigger political machinations going on behind the scenes? » Howell said in denying Williams’ motion.
In one of the most sprawling cases on Jan. 6 — against some of the defendants facing the most serious police assault charges related to the violence in the Capitol’s lower West Terrace tunnel — defense attorneys cited the upcoming release of Jan. 6 committee transcripts as a reason to delay a trial scheduled to begin Oct. 3. McFadden, the judge in that case, has yet to weigh in on the motion.