The U.S. Department of Justice charged 70 demonstrators who breached the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday and forced the lawmakers to shelter. Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin announced the charges Tuesday and said that the DOJ expects hundreds more criminal cases.
Sherwin announced that in less than a week since the Capitol was breached, the DOJ had opened more than 170 subject files of individuals at the Capitol. He said each subject file represents a person who potentially committed crimes at the Capitol. He said of the more than 170 subject files, the DOJ has already charged more than 70 cases.
Video of the full DOJ press brief is available here:
Sherwin said he expects the number of cases to grow “geometrically” in the coming days and weeks, but that he expects the full investigation of the incidents at the Capitol to take months.
On Friday, U.S. prosecutors had filed federal charges against four individuals photographed at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, including a man who appeared in a now-viral photograph with his foot up on in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office desk.
In an effort to quickly identify and charge demonstrators at the Capitol, Sherwin said DOJ prosecutors initially brought numerous misdemeanor charges, but prosecutors are now working to identify additional felony charges they can levy against those at the Capitol. He said when charges are brought against individuals, it opens up the possibility for prosecutors to investigate whether those individuals can be charged for more serious crimes.
Sherwin said investigations are ongoing into cases including instances of simple trespass at the Capitol, people stealing mail and digital devices from lawmakers’ offices, assault on local and federal officers during clashes on the Capitol grounds, the potential theft of national security information, felony murder of a police officer at the Capitol and even a civil rights excessive force investigation.
Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who previously served in the New Jersey Air National Guard, died on Thursday after injuries sustained during the demonstrations at the Capitol.
One of the demonstrators at the Capitol, 14-year U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbit was also fatally shot by a Capitol police officer. Three others at the Capitol died of what police described as “medical emergencies.”
Sherwin said the DOJ is further investigating cases where firearms were brought to the Capitol and two cases where pipe bombs were planted outside the Republican National Committee office and the Democratic National Committee office. He said he has organized three different investigatory task forces.
One task force will build sedition and conspiracy charges, Sherwin said, noting charges could yield prison terms of up to 20 years. He said a second task force will prioritize cases where weapons and destructive devices, like the pipe bombs, were involved and acts of assault on law enforcement officers. A third task force will focus on attacks on members of the media who were present at the Capitol.
On Tuesday, FBI Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) Steven D’Antuono said the FBI has received over 100,000 pieces of digital media to assist their investigations.
D’Antuono said FBI field offices around the country are also helping to investigate demonstrators at the Capitol who may have since returned to their homes around the country.
“Even if you’ve left D.C., agents from our local field offices will be knocking on your door,” D’Antuono said.
D’Antuono said that the public is also helping to identify people at the Capitol Wednesday, but that those who were present may also come forward to the FBI to identify their role in the incident, “as several individuals who were involved in Wednesday’s riots have done.”
In addition to charges being brought against demonstrators at the Capitol, several Capitol Police officers have been suspended for suspicion of violating department policies, including posing for pictures with demonstrators and appearing to lead them into the Capitol. 10 to 15 more officers are also facing investigations stemming from the incidents at the Capitol on Wednesday.