News Update

Federal prosecutors top 180 Capitol riot cases

CNN has found that 181 people have been charged in federal court as of Wednesday morning, according to Justice Department announcements and court records.
The latest charges, against Dennis Sidorski of northern Virginia, accuse him of four counts related to violent entry into the restricted grounds of the Capitol. He was seen on video, according to a sworn affidavit from investigators, walking through the halls of the Capitol during the riot. CNN has reached out to Sidorski’s attorney for comment on the charges.
Sidorski’s charge — though notable for his “Supremacist” shirt message — is emblematic of many of the arrests on low-level charges the Justice Department has made in its nationwide effort to round up rioters who stormed the Capitol after coming to Washington in support of then-President Donald Trump’s challenge to the electoral win of now-President Joe Biden.
Yet dozens of the cases against Capitol riot defendants have revealed more severe crimes, the troubling histories of defendants and even how prosecutors are looking at terrorism tactics used by right-wing extremists.
Prosecutors have charged a handful of defendants in conspiracies, including alleging members of one paramilitary group planned for an assault on the Capitol. They’ve also sought out people who allegedly were violent toward police or made direct threats of violence against lawmakers and others.

Prosecutors point to defendants’ histories

In federal courts across the country this week, prosecutors dug into the histories of defendants as some of the cases move toward detention requests — including arguing to judges how one man with a history of stolen valor and a New Mexico county official should be detained.
The New Mexico county commissioner, Couy Griffin, had said in a county meeting that he wished to return to DC for the Biden inauguration with guns in his car. He had said in a meeting of a political group he leads called Cowboys for Trump that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
At a court hearing on Monday, Griffin’s attorney said he wasn’t “a crazy person, even though he’s made some unfortunate statements.” But the judge responded that “words matter” and it wasn’t enough for Griffin to make a direct threat and then say he didn’t mean it. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ordered him to stay in jail in DC to await trial.
In eastern Texas, a judge decided on Sunday to keep in jail Troy Anthony Smocks, who is charged with one crime related to the insurrection — writing a threat on Parler about carrying weapons on January 6 and hunting down “RINOs” (or Republicans in Name Only), Democrats and tech executives, according to filings in his criminal case. Smocks’ history — with 18 past convictions including impersonating a federal agent and accusations he posed as a veteran — contributed to the judge’s decision.
Prosecutors say Smocks wore a battle uniform in a YouTube video and, years ago, donned a full military dress uniform “complete with medals he did not earn” for a wedding, though he had not served in the military. At other times, he wore a US Drug Enforcement Administration shirt and carried handcuffs to the scene of a search, told a woman that law enforcement was looking for her while he posed as a Secret Service agent, and told police he was in the FBI, according to Justice Department court filings.
More recently, Smocks had developed a following of 30,000 on Parler, came to DC for January 6 and encouraged people to follow the call of the former President, his son Eric Trump and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama to take up arms as “American patriots,” prosecutors said.

Slowing pace of new defendants publicized

Some who were charged weeks ago are just now appearing for the first time in federal court in DC, where their cases will proceed, such as Gabriel Augustin Garcia, who allegedly has a connection to the pro-Trump extremist group the Proud Boys and is charged with three counts related to disorderly conduct inside the Capitol. On Tuesday, a magistrate judge in DC’s federal court agreed to allow Garcia to be released, while under GPS monitoring and a curfew.
This week, the number of new defendants made public each day has slowed, after weeks of the Justice Department bringing as many as 10 or more cases in court nearly every day, as investigators identified and arrested some of the hundreds of people in or around the Capitol on January 6.
At a news conference last week, DC US Attorney Michael Sherwin, who is overseeing the court cases, said prosecutors expected to “reach a period of plateau” in the dragnet as they focused more on complicated conspiracy cases, potentially involving sedition charges and against paramilitary groups who may have planned and prepared for the siege.
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