Jan. 6 rioters face criminal penalties as sentences, convictions mount

Hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have been penalized their actions. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
1 of 5 | Hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have been penalized their actions. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

June 2 (UPI) -- More than two years after the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the halls of Congress as lawmakers worked to certify the results of the 2020 election have been penalized for their actions, many sent to prison.

Of the more than 1,033 people arrested in connection with the riots, 485 have had their cases adjudicated and received sentences. About 277 were sentenced to a period of incarceration and about 113 have been sentenced to home detention, including 15 who were also ordered to be incarcerated, the Justice Department said as of last month.


Among those charged in the riot are people found to be involved in planning and organizing the assault on the Capitol, rioters who attacked Capitol Police and some who made their way into the halls of Congress stealing or harming property.


Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told UPI the U.S. Justice Department's wide-ranging response to Jan. 6 has been impressive, but work remains to hold Trump, who faces a federal criminal investigation for his role, responsible.

"DOJ's performance is incomplete until we see whether they are able to hold accountable the highest-level plotters, including Donald Trump and his close associates," McQuade said.

Conspiracy charges

About 55 defendants have been charged with conspiracies to obstruct a congressional proceeding, obstruct law enforcement during a civil disorder, injure an officer or some combination of the three.

Members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, two far-right, pro-Trump militia groups, have been convicted of seditious conspiracy -- the most serious charges filed over Jan. 6, as juries found them guilty of conspiring to use violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a May 25 statement that the Oath Keepers plotted for months to violently disrupt the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next in a conspiracy to keep Trump in power.

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other charges, the longest Jan. 6 sentence to date. Florida Oath Keepers leader Kelly Meggs got 12 years.


Oath Keeper and U.S. Army veteran Jessica Watkins was sentenced to 8 1/2 years. She told the judge she now understands her actions that day were wrong and said she is truly sorry.

An executive summary by the House committee investigating the riots noted the federal testimony of Oath Keeper Graydon Young, who testified against Rhodes. Young testified that he and other Oath Keepers were provoked to come to the Capitol by Trump's false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

"I was [acting] like a traitor, somebody against my own government," Young acknowledged in his testimony looking back on his action two years later.

Ex-Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio and subordinate members Joseph Biggs, Ethan Nordean and Zachary Rehl were convicted of seditious conspiracy and several other felonies related to Jan. 6 crimes.

According to the House committee, Trump turned the mob, including Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, the latter of whom he told during a televised debate to "stand back and standby," on the Capitol.

Garland said in a statement that evidence showed the "crucial role" that the Proud Boys leaders and their followers played "in breaking through the multiple security lines that protected the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021."


He said going forward the Justice Department will "continue to do everything in our power to hold accountable those criminally responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on our democracy."

Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman told UPI that the events of Jan. 6 showed "both that our institutions are strong enough to withstand severe testing and that they are not nearly as strong as we thought" in the face of rising right-wing extremism and fascism.

"Perhaps there is an existential threat if extremists prevail, but American history is chock full of such groups," Richman said. "The goal has to be to marginalize, and when they commit crimes, arrest them. Marginalization is more difficult in such a networked society, but much would be accomplished if these groups were not sustained by less fringe actors seeking narrow political gain."

Attacks on law enforcement

According to the Justice Department, roughly 346 defendants have been charged with "assaulting, resisting or impeding officers or employees, including approximately 108 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer."

The Justice Department also reported that about 140 police officers were assaulted in the riots, including 80 U.S. Capitol Police officers and 60 from the Metropolitan Police Department.


Julian Khater, who sprayed Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who later died of multiple strokes, and others in the face with mace during the insurrection, got 80 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Peter Schwartz, a Pennsylvania man charged with four felony counts of using a dangerous weapon while assaulting, resisting or impeding officers drew a more than 14-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors called him one of the most violent and aggressive Jan. 6 participants.

The Jan. 6 Capitol insurrectionist shown in a video painfully pinning Capitol Police Officer Daniel Hodges in a doorway was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison. Patrick McCaughey told the judge what he did was stupid and said he wished he had better control of himself that day.

Kyle Young pleaded guilty to assaulting D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten and repeatedly tased. Young got more than seven years in prison.

Albuquerque Head, who dragged Fanone into the violent mob, drew a 7 1/2-year prison sentence.

Threats against lawmakers

While attacking the Capitol and law enforcement, the mob shouted "Hang Mike Pence!" and called then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's name as they prowled through the Capitol, interrupting the peaceful transfer of presidential power and forcing members of Congress and the vice president to flee for their lives.


Pelosi, in particular, was the target of many threats from rioters, including some who successfully made their way into her office.

Richard Barnett, photographed with his feet on her desk, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. In addition to carrying a stun gun into the Capitol, he stole an envelope from Pelosi's office and left a letter for her that said, "Hey Nancy, Bigo was here, you biotch."

Riley Williams was sentenced to three years in prison after she was seen "directing crowds" up a staircase to Pelosi's office, where video also showed her taking Pelosi's laptop and hard drive.

Adam Johnson, who posed at Pelosi's lectern, received a sentence of 75 days in prison.

Pauline Bauer, a Pennsylvania woman who threatened "to hang" Pelosi, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and 24 months of supervised release. Dawn Bancroft, also of Pennsylvania, was handed a 60-day sentence and placed on probation for three years after threatening to shoot Pelosi "in the friggin' brain."

McQuade said the political violence behind the attack still presents a serious risk to American democracy.

"The risk of political violence remains high, and we must do more to combat it. We should demand more from candidates and leaders to speak out against political violence and to tone down their rhetoric about fighting and hunting members of the other party," McQuade said.


"In addition, we should beef up our laws pertaining to domestic terrorism and assault weapons. Our lax laws in those areas make it easy for extremist groups to assemble arsenals and plan attacks."

Prosecuting the brains

Despite the expansive arrests and penalties for leaders of groups like the Oath Keepers, Richman said that so far the Justice Department has just been prosecuting "the muscle," not the brains behind false claims that the election was stolen.

"Accountability efforts have proceeded apace as to those who attacked the Capitol and those immediately behind them," Richman said. "But the mob was really just the muscle for what amounted to a multipronged fraudulent effort to overturn the election. So far, none of those who contrived that fraud and peddled it have been held accountable."

In December, the Jan. 6 House committee recommended Trump be charged with obstruction of an official proceeding of the U.S. government, as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make false statements and to "incite," "assist" or "aid or comfort" an insurrection.

"The evidence is clear that President Trump personally participated in a scheme to have the Trump electors meet, cast votes and send their votes to the joint session of Congress in several states that Vice President Biden won, and then his supporters relied on the existence of these fake electors as part of their effort to obstruct the joint session," the committee wrote in its executive summary.


Special counsel Jack Smith was also appointed to investigate Trump's role in the lead-up to Jan. 6 as Trump repeated false statements that the 2020 election was stolen.

Richman said it's hard to predict whether Trump will be indicted for his role leading up to Jan. 6. He said it is not enough that all those around him whom he should have listened to told him to accept his electoral defeat.

"Not only is it a huge step to indict a former president and current leading candidate -- though the Manhattan DA has already taken it -- but pinning down his state of mind may be difficult," Richman said.

Despite this unprecedented Justice Department prosecution effort, Trump and other Republicans continue to lie about the 2020 election, still claiming it was stolen, which McQuade said leads to larger concerns of disinformation moving forward.

"Too many Americans were convinced that the election was stolen, despite a complete absence of evidence," she said. "We need to educate the public about disinformation tactics so that we can build resilience and recognize these tactics."

Trump, who is running again for the White House in 2024, could aim to protect the rioters if re-elected.


He has said he would pardon Jan. 6 insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol in his name, while fellow GOP candidate Ron DeSantis said he will be aggressive in considering Jan. 6 pardons.

Donald Trump supporters breach Capitol, riot over election results

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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