February 22, 2021


The Capitol Rioters Are Starting To Face Much More Serious Charges For The InsurrectionProsecutors are ramping up charges against people accused of carrying weapons, assaulting police, and conspiring with others. (Zoe Tillman, 2/19/21, BuzzFeed News)

Cua is one of a growing number of defendants charged in the insurrection seeing their felony counts -- and potential prison time -- stack up as the investigation presses on. Other defendants only charged with misdemeanors when they were arrested are now facing felonies post-indictment. Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington had told reporters one week after the assault on the Capitol that the early rounds of arrests on misdemeanor charges were "only the beginning," and promised more "significant charges" once prosecutors took these cases before a grand jury. New court documents in cases such as Cua's show how that's taking shape.

Of the more than 230 people charged to date, at least 70 are now facing a minimum of one felony count -- the most common is obstruction of Congress, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. More than 30 are charged with assaulting or interfering with law enforcement officers, and at least 14 are charged with carrying or using a weapon that day. Weapons identified in the government's court filings so far have included knives, Tasers, a hockey stick, a large metal pipe, baseball bats, fire extinguishers, and batons.

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Many more new cases are expected. Sherwin last month told reporters that federal law enforcement had opened up more than 400 subject case files -- a term that broadly refers to identifying people of interest -- in connection with the investigation. A Justice Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News this week that the number of subject files was up to approximately 540.

Sherwin also previously announced that the Justice Department had formed special task forces focused on building cases that involved more serious felony crimes, including assaulting law enforcement, conspiracy against the United States and sedition, and attacks on the media. No one has been charged yet with seditious conspiracy, a rarely invoked felony that also has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, or with assaulting members of the press.

Prosecutors have brought four conspiracy cases, alleging small groups of defendants acted in concert and in some cases preplanned the attack; they've left the door open to adding more alleged coconspirators in the future. Three of these cases involve defendants who prosecutors say are affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group connected to violent incidents in the past, and the fourth involves alleged members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia organization that recruits primarily from current and former members of the military and law enforcement.

Prosecutors expanded the Oath Keepers conspiracy case this week, from three defendants to nine. The Justice Department announced on Friday that a grand jury had returned a new indictment adding six more people, including Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of an Oath Keepers chapter in Florida, and a retired couple from Ohio, Bennie and Sandra Parker. The Parkers allegedly coordinated with a woman charged in the original Oath Keepers indictment, Jessica Watkins. Prosecutors quoted text messages that Watkins exchanged with Bennie Parker leading up to Jan. 6 where the two discussed the Parkers joining the Oath Keepers, planning to travel to Washington, and whether to bring guns. The Parkers' charging papers also included images from surveillance footage inside the Capitol that prosecutors said showed Sandra Parker in a line, or "stack," with Watkins and other Oath Keepers.

After the insurrection, Watkins and Bennie Parker exchanged texts where they predicted they wouldn't be arrested, according to charging papers.

Posted by at February 22, 2021 12:00 AM