While Republican officeholders like Kevin McCarthy double down on their strategy of gaslighting the public about what transpired at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a reality check may be in order: As prosecutors themselves earlier suggested, it is now apparent that this event is becoming the largest and most complex prosecution in U.S. history, as the Justice Department made clear over the weekend that it expects to charge more than 500 people in the matter.
And in fact the arrests and accompanying charges—as well as concerns about the roles played by law enforcement and other officials—continue to pile up. The cases against some of the insurrection’s leading components, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, not only have deepened, but also appear to be expanding to include militiamen who were not members of those groups. At the same time, the FBI’s cozy relationship with the Proud Boys was underscored with the revelation that the FBI collected information from at least four members of the group about leftists, but does not appear to have used that opportunity to examine the organization itself.
According to Reuters, FBI agents began maintaining connections to members of the Proud Boys as early as 2019, primarily concerned with sharing intelligence about antifascist activists. However, there is no indication the agency used the connections to gather data about the far-right street brawlers.
“This was a group committing violence in public and promoting themselves as a violent group,” former FBI agent Mike German, an analyst with the Brennan Center for Justice, told Reuters. “It’s hard to understand how the FBI could have had a relationship with four individuals in the Proud Boys and didn’t understand the nature of the threat to the Capitol.”
The scope of the threat certainly is now clear to the Justice Department, which in a filing made Thursday warned federal judges that it anticipates charging another 100 people in connection with the attack on the Capitol. Currently, some 440 people have been charged.
The evidence in the wide-ranging prosecution case includes more than 15,000 hours of video from surveillance and police body cameras. Court documents show that those charged come from nearly every state, with Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas topping the list in number of residents arrested. According to the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University, about 90% of those charged have been men, with an average age of 40. Another study found that 40% of the Capitol arrestees are business owners or hold white-collar jobs. Their occupations include CEOs, shop owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists, and accountants—and notably, only 9% are unemployed. Two-thirds of them are 35 or older.
Most of the indictees are charged with such low-level offenses as entering a federal building without permission or disrupting the official counting of the Electoral College vote for president. Several dozen face more serious charges, such as assaulting police officers or damaging government property.
Among the recent Jan. 6-related arrests:
- A New York man, Robert Chapman, was arrested after he boasted to a would-be date on the dating platform Bumble about his participation in the siege. He texted her on Jan. 6 that “I did storm the Capitol,” adding that he had “made it all the way into Statuary Hall” and that he had been interviewed by members of the media. His correspondent replied: “We are not a match.” She promptly reached out to the FBI and provided screenshots of the conversation; he was charged on April 13.
- A Proud Boy from Syracuse, New York, named Matthew Greene, was charged last week in a superseding indictment along with Proud Boys Dominic Pezzola and William Pepe—who are believed to have stolen a police shield and used it to break a window that provided the rioters their first entry point into the Capitol. Greene was fired from his job as chief technology and operating officer at Happy Mushroom, a virtual art studio. “We are extremely appalled to learn Mr. Greene held beliefs that are so counter to what Happy Mushroom stands for,” said CEO and Creative Director Felix Jorge.
- A North Texas couple, Mark and Jalise Middleton, were charged last week with assault of a law enforcement officer, interference with a law enforcement officer during civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, unlawful entry on restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, bringing Texas’ total number of indictees to 22. Video shows Mark Middleton pushing against police barriers and his wife striking officers trying to prevent him from doing so. They also boasted about their actions to their friends on Facebook: “We just sent a warning that we are serious,” Jalise Middleton wrote. “They did break windows to get in, but we’re not tearing anything up. It is simply a notification that we can get to you, we mean business, do what’s right!”
- Two Kansas women, Jennifer Ruth Parks and Esther Schwemmer, were arrested last week for their roles in the Capitol siege. They told FBI agents that they believed they were participating in a peaceful pro-Trump rally. “Schwemmer claimed that she and Parks walked to the front of the Capitol Building, encountered no barricades and no police officer told them to stop,” the affidavit states. “Schwemmer saw the open doors to the U.S. Capitol Building and entered with Parks.”
- A 61-year-old man from Westminster, California, was charged Friday with participating in a violent brawl with a police officer that left the latter man with serious head injuries. Kevin Galletto, an engineer and conservative Orange County activist, was charged with assaulting a police officer, obstruction of law enforcement, obstruction of justice, and knowingly entering a restricted building and committing physical violence. He was recorded taking part in an assault on a Metropolitan Police officer whose helmet was knocked off in the attack and he was pushed to the ground. Galetto can be seen in the video pushing up against the officer’s shield.
Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel examined the documents from a set of lesser-known Capitol siege indictments and noticed that they indicate how the Justice Department is proceeding with potential conspiracy cases that fall outside the leading prosecutions involving the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. In particular, the documents involving three self-described “Patriots” who were unaffiliated with the other conspiracies—Josiah Colt of Boise, Idaho; Ronnie Sandlin of Memphis, Tennessee; and Nate DeGrave of Las Vegas, Nevada—indicate that the three men coordinated a plan to attack the Capitol and ended up playing key roles in the invasion of the Senate chambers.
Prosecutors have not yet charged them with conspiracy, Wheeler notes, but have promised superseding indictments in their cases in the weeks ahead.
“For months, the government has seemingly focused on the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to the detriment of a focus on the more organic networks formed online or in in-person protests,” she writes. “That may be about to change.”
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