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US Capitol mob members could face more serious charges, prison time, as investigation unfolds

16:00  12 january  2021
16:00  12 january  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

QAnon supporter from Arizona dressed in fur and horns joins storming of US Capitol

  QAnon supporter from Arizona dressed in fur and horns joins storming of US Capitol The man was seen in photographs from Washington, D.C., amid supporters of President Donald Trump who turned violent and stormed the U.S. Capitol.Angeli was seen in photographs from Washington, D.C., amid rioters who turned violent and stormed the building, causing both chambers to suspend their intended action of the day: certifying the results of the presidential election for former vice president Joe Biden.

The Antifa members disguised themselves with pro-Trump clothing to join in the D.C. rioting said the sources, who spotted the infiltrators while monitoring video coverage from the Capitol . More On

The federal investigative interest is a priority and a part of the broader investigation into the mob at the Capitol , sources said. No law enforcement member has been charged with a crime. The FBI is investigating the attack on the Capitol and members of Congress have promised investigations .

With a growing number of arrests and charges related to last week's storming of the U.S. Capitol, multiple law-enforcement agencies are building a sprawling investigation into who participated in the violent event that claimed at least five lives and sent fearful lawmakers into hiding.

Nearly 100 people have been arrested so far for their roles in the attack carried out by thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters or in unrest surrounding the Capitol that day. Many currently face lesser charges such as unlawful entry, disorderly conduct and defacing public property. Only a few have been accused of more serious crimes such as felony violations of the Riot Act.

Fact check: Social media falsely claims Vice President Mike Pence was arrested

  Fact check: Social media falsely claims Vice President Mike Pence was arrested After rioters breached the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, social media posts claimed Vice President Mike Pence had been arrested. That is false.Vice President Mike Pence was also at the Capitol to preside over the proceedings. Shortly after rioters breached the Capitol, Phil Godlewski took to Facebook to claim that Pence had been arrested.

Visual Investigations . ‘They Got a Officer!’: How a Mob Dragged and Beat Police at the Capitol . Rioters attempt to protect a Metropolitan Police officer from other members of the mob after they dragged him down stairs and beat him.Credit The New York Times /Jarrett Robertson.

Capitol riots - live: Mob say ‘police on our side’, as Republican lawmaker charged for storming Congress. Follow for all the latest fallout following the pro-Trump insurrection in Washington DC.

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: TOPSHOT - A supporter of President Trump is arrested inside the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. - Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden's election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 0 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_8YB49B.jpg © OLIVIER DOULIERY, AFP via Getty Images TOPSHOT - A supporter of President Trump is arrested inside the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. - Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden's election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 0 ORIG FILE ID: AFP_8YB49B.jpg

In the cases of those who attacked the Capitol, those initial charges could be a precursor of more serious allegations, said University of Texas law professor Bobby Chesney.

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Actions by 'all actors,' including Trump, may be under scrutiny following violence at the Capitol, prosecutor says

  Actions by 'all actors,' including Trump, may be under scrutiny following violence at the Capitol, prosecutor says "We're looking at all actors," Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said when asked about the role Trump played.Actions by President Donald Trump, who had encouraged his supporters to go to the Capitol as he continued to falsely claim that the election had been stolen from him, may not be exempted from scrutiny.

Can you be fired for joining a violent mob that storms the Capitol ?Of course you can . That’s why the teachers and off-duty police officers spotted at the Capitol have only been suspended pending investigations Donald Trump could face a trial in the Senate starting an hour after he leaves office.

The mob overwhelmed Capitol police and breached the building, forcing lawmakers to evacuate. “I think at this point, with just a few days left, it’s the best path forward, the best way to get this person in the rearview mirror for us that could happen immediately,” Toomey told host Jake Tapper.

It’s common for authorities to make arrests based on readily-proven charges, such as trespassing on federal property, Chesney said. Then, weeks later, prosecutors seek grand-jury indictments on more serious charges.

“It remains to be seen how aggressive the Justice Department will be in terms of going after organizers and ringleaders,” Chesney said. “No doubt the FBI and DOJ would prefer to get past January 20, moreover, both for the sake of general calm and to avoid any prospect of a pardon shutting down a particular case.”

Heading up the task of identifying, locating, arresting and charging offenders falls on the shoulders of acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin. He told National Public Radio this week that “hundreds” could ultimately face charges.

No charges are off the table, Sherwin said. Seditious conspiracy, rioting and insurrection will be considered if warranted.

Fact check: Viral images compare handling of Black Lives Matter protests and Capitol riot

  Fact check: Viral images compare handling of Black Lives Matter protests and Capitol riot Posts on social media use images to compare law enforcement's treatment of Black Lives Matter protests with the Capitol breach.As the events unfolded, many on social media shared images purporting to show the stark divide between law enforcement's handling of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests compared to the Trump supporters who violently stormed the Capitol.

Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, identified by CNN reporter Kristin Wilson, can be seen getting rioters to move away from the Senate as police raced to secure the chamber. Five people including a Capitol Police officer died as a result of Wednesday's rioting and dozens of people have been charged .

He was later arrested and faced five federal charges , including trespassing. A federal murder investigation has been opened into the death of Brian Sicknick, the It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more .

Federal trespassing citations likely will result in fines or probation, experts said. More serious misdemeanors and felony charges related to weapons, conspiracy and assault could incur prison time.

“Prosecutors have a tremendous amount of discretion and this was an unprecedented assault on our seat of government,” said University of Wisconsin Law Professor Keith Findley. “My guess is they’ll take that very seriously… They’ll have many, many options to charge independently, or stack offenses. There’s a lot on the table.”

FBI looking for man in Senate with zip ties, tactical gear; experts call him a rioter 'hunting for people'

  FBI looking for man in Senate with zip ties, tactical gear; experts call him a rioter 'hunting for people' Holding zip-tie handcuffs, a man in paramilitary gear who moved through the Senate Chamber during the Capitol riot alarms counter-terrorism experts.The man was not with security, who'd recently evacuated U.S. Senators and Vice President Mike Pence from the floor below. Experts say he was among the rioters who disrupted U.S. Congress's certification of Trump's election loss with violence, resulting in five fatalities to date.

But some, like Anne Milgram, a New York University law professor and former attorney general of New Jersey, criticized the lack of more serious charges for those accused of ransacking the Capitol.

“What we’ve yet to see is a connection to seditious conspiracy,” Milgram said. “It feels to me, and everyone who watched, that the goal of this mob was to stop Congress from certifying the vote ... the charges right now do not match the harm.”

Milgram said she expects the heaviest charges to stem from the slaying of Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick. Others have suggested several members of the mob could face felony murder charges in that case similar to a getaway driver in a fatal robbery.

Prosecutors have primarily focused on those caught on camera and identified by tipsters in photos and videos during the riot. Department of Justice officials, for example, have announced the arrests of notable viral participants, including Jacob Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the Arizona man who wore a fur hat and horns; Adam Johnson, the Florida man photographed carrying Nancy Pelosi’s lectern; and Eric Munchel, the Tennessee man depicted in tactical gear carrying plastic wrist restraints.

a room filled with lots of furniture: Jacob Anthony Chansley, aka Jake Angeli of Phoenix, yells inside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol during mass demonstrations in the nation's capital. © Win McNamee, Getty Images Jacob Anthony Chansley, aka Jake Angeli of Phoenix, yells inside the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol during mass demonstrations in the nation's capital.

Federal investigators also have the option of serving subpoenas on technology companies to preserve content that perpetrators might try to delete.

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  More than half of Americans believe Trump should be removed before Jan. 20, according to poll A poll published Sunday by ABC News/Ipsos found that 56% of respondents believe President Donald Trump should be removed from office before Jan. 20.The poll, published Sunday by ABC News/Ipsos, found that 56% of respondents support his removal prior to Inauguration Day and 67% blame Trump for the attack on Jan. 6, which forced lawmakers to flee their chambers and left five dead.

Pete Eliadis, president and CEO of Intelligence Consulting Partners, a security firm, faulted Capitol Police for failing to secure the building and make arrests on the scene, making the job harder for investigators.

But he believes the government will try to make an example out of the key figures whose viral images show their role in inciting violence.

“They want to make a statement that this will not be tolerated, so if they can make a plausible arrest, they will,” Eliadis said. “The ones who wanted the attention, they’re going to get the attention. It’s easier to focus on them than the masses coming through.”

Labeling the riot and finding the most accurate charges could be difficult without a domestic terrorism law, which Congress has considered for years, said Chris Bonner, a retired FBI agent who teaches courses on homeland security at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

“The very first thing people want to do is call something terrorism. There is no federal law covering domestic terrorism,” Bonner said. “If we’re going to decry something and criminalize it, we better have a law to cover it and then it better be equally applied across the ideological spectrum from extreme left to extreme right.”

Summer unrest a backdrop for charges

Federal prosecutions for the Capitol riot will undoubtedly draw parallels to unrest last summer over the killings of Black Americans by police.

Last year, following weeks of unrest in several cities after the death of George Floyd, Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen wrote a memo telling federal prosecutors to consider a sedition charge against protesters who conspired to "take a federal courthouse or other federal property by force."

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund's request for National Guard backup was denied, he says in interview

  Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund's request for National Guard backup was denied, he says in interview Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund says his requests for National Guard assistance before and during the riot were repeatedly turned down.Sund, who resigned his post the day after the riot, told The Washington Post he had been concerned that the protest planned for Jan. 6 would be larger than expected. Sund said he asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the National Guard be placed on standby.

And federal prosecutors took over charging cases against more than 100 protestors in two particular hotspots – Portland and Seattle. However, dozens of those charges were low-level citations or misdemeanors. Most of the Portland cases have not gone to trial because the pandemic has backlogged the courts. That trend will likely continue for accused D.C. rioters; many may not see a trial before the end of 2021.

Michael Filipovic, federal public defender for the Western District of Washington state said the U.S. attorney took over several state court charges and sought to send a message with tougher penalties. He said comparing Wednesday’s riot to protests over the summer is difficult.

He anticipated misdemeanor charges for many Capitol trespassers, but more weighty charges to come soon.

“If prosecutors can prove you had a firearm, zip-ties and intent to detain or harm individuals, that’s something they’ll take very seriously where you’ll be looking at some felonies,” Filipovic said.

Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University and associate director of the school’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, said he would expect to see charges that are more serious than those handed down during protests at President Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

More than 200 people were arrested during protests dubbed “J20” during the 2017 inauguration and charged with more serious felonies, including inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, destruction of property and assault on police officers.

Federal prosecutors ultimately dropped charges in all but a handful of cases where people pleaded guilty. They failed to win convictions in others that went to trial.

At the very least, Maguire expects to see felony rioting charges for those confirmed to have breached the Capitol.

In wake of Capitol riot, active-duty Army officer under investigation

  In wake of Capitol riot, active-duty Army officer under investigation The Army is investigating Capt. Emily Rainey’s presence at the Capitol and what she did there, said Maj. Dan Lessard. Sen. Duckworth has called for broader investigations.The Army is investigating Capt. Emily Rainey’s presence at the Capitol and what she did there, said Maj. Dan Lessard, spokesperson for 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is unclear if she violated any laws, he said.

“It would be appropriate for them to see jail time,” Maguire said of the Trump rioters who entered Capitol Hill. “This is an insurrection, and it should be charged as one.”

Maguire said social media and video surveillance of the riot would likely give prosecutors stronger cases of intent than the evidence they had from the J20 protests.

Of the early arrests made by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police, all but a handful involved curfew violation and unlawful entry. The remaining others were arrested on more serious weapons charges or for defacing public property.

They included suspects like David Fitzgerald of Illinois who was cuffed as he attempted to exit through the barricades while following news crews that were being escorted out, and Joshua Pruitt, a 39-year-old from D.C. who is one of the few facing felony violations of the Riot Act.

Capitol Police also focused their arrests on unlawful entry, charging more than a dozen suspects for the offense, including Michael Curzio, a 35-year-old Florida man released from prison in February 2019 following an eight-year sentence for attempted first-degree murder.

Charges against Mark Leffingwell were among the first federal charges to roll into D.C.’s District Court on Thursday. A Capitol Police officer wrote in a complaint that Leffingwell attempted to push past him into the Capitol, then began punching repeatedly. While in custody, Leffingwell “spontaneously apologized for striking" him. Leffingwell has been charged with entering a restricted building, assault on a federal law enforcement officer and violent entry or disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.

Some legal defenses would be a stretch

Social media from the accused rioters suggests some may attempt novel legal defenses. Some may claim the President instructed them to march to the Capitol, giving them legal cover, while others have already claimed they “got caught up in the moment.”

Neither will hold much water in court, said UW’s Findley.

“The law recognizes duress, coercion and necessity, but those are limited and require showing that the person had no choice but to commit the criminal act facing violence or death. We’re nowhere close to that,” Findley said.

A “heat of passion” defense would also require protesters to prove that a reasonable person would have been provoked to take the same action, Findley said.

Some Capitol trespassers spoke out on social media and on video after the riot that they believed they hadn’t committed a crime because police let them in — or that they simply walked through open doors. Others chanted outside they had a right to enter because Congress works for the people.

But both federal law and new rules from the pandemic explicitly prohibit members of the public from entering the building. All public tours have been cancelled since March 2020 and only lawmakers, staff, media and their guests with proper credentials are currently allowed in.

Back when tours were available, they did not include access to the Senate and House galleries, which required a separate pass obtained through the office of the visitor’s senators or representatives.

Many of the rioters also broke rules by bringing prohibited items into the building, including water, electric stun guns, guns, ammunition, knives, mace and pepper spray and large bags, according to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

Inside the galleries there is no photography or video recording allowed except by the media and the government's own cameras.

And smoking, which several rioters filmed themselves doing inside the building, is strictly prohibited.

Contributing: Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Capitol mob members could face more serious charges, prison time, as investigation unfolds

In wake of Capitol riot, active-duty Army officer under investigation .
The Army is investigating Capt. Emily Rainey’s presence at the Capitol and what she did there, said Maj. Dan Lessard. Sen. Duckworth has called for broader investigations.The Army is investigating Capt. Emily Rainey’s presence at the Capitol and what she did there, said Maj. Dan Lessard, spokesperson for 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It is unclear if she violated any laws, he said.

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