Overall, 13 people face federal charges, with officials promising more on the way.
WASHINGTON DC-Federal officials charged 13 people this week in connection with Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol building. Out of that list, two are Virginia residents, both coming from Mathews County.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Friday that 59-year-old Cindy Fitchett and 58-year-old Douglas Sweet face multiple charges. Fitchett, from Cobbs Creek and Sweet, from Hudgins, stand accused of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. They’re also charged with intent to impede government business or official functions, engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
In addition to those two, 11 others face federal charges. Some are familiar now like Gravette, Arkansas resident Richard Barnett. He’s the man whose photo popped up on social media, sitting at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Barnett faces one more charge than Fitchett and Sweet. The FBI accused him of stealing public money, property or records.
Also facing charges is Bradley Rukstales. The Illinois resident was until Friday CEO of tech company Cogensia. That changed quickly. Cogensia officials terminated Rukstales Friday, announcing it in a media statement. He faces the same charges as Fitchett and Sweet.
In the Justice Department’s Statement of Facts, Capitol Police Officer Joseph Bruno testified as to what happened. He identified Fitchett, Sweet and Rukstales, along with three others that were part of a crowd inside the Capitol. When he encountered them, Bruno said, the group was near the door to the House Atrium.
“In a loud and clear voice, Capitol Police officers ordered the crowd to leave the building,” Bruno said. “The crowd did not comply, and instead responded by shouting and cursing at the Capitol Police officers. The six individuals, like others in the larger crowd, willfully refused the order to leave.”
More to Come From DC
Speaking to the media Friday, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said people should expect to see more arrests and charges in the coming days.
“The lawless destruction of the U.S. Capitol building was an attack against one of our Nation’s greatest institutions,” said Sherwin. “My Office, along with our law enforcement partners at all levels, have been expeditiously working and leveraging every resource to identify, arrest, and begin prosecuting these individuals who took part in the brazen criminal acts at the U.S. Capitol.”
Currently 40 other cases related to Wednesday’s attack are making their way through the District of Columbia’s Superior Court.
Sherwin was one of several law enforcement officials who issued statements Friday. FBI Director Christopher Wray took it a step further. Wray said what happened Wednesday was criminal activity, not protected speech.
“To be clear, what took place that day was not First Amendment-protected activity, but rather an affront on our democracy,” Wray said. “The FBI, along with our local, state and federal partners, is committed to ensuring that justice is served.”
Issuing a Response in DC
Friday’s announcement seemed to be a response to earlier criticism. Late Wednesday, the DC Metro Police announced they made 52 arrests. By comparison, the same staff made 194 arrests during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert Contee tried to explain why the number was so different.
“Our members established a secure perimeter. [Then] we started with arrests [at the Capitol] and methodically moved out from [there],” Contee said. “There are arrests going on as we speak. Members of MPD are on the street and we will continue to enforce the mayor’s curfew.”
He acknowledged the difference in numbers between the June protests and Wednesday’s incident. In this case, officers had to travel, Contee said. When Metro Police got the call for help from the Capitol just after 1 p.m., it took a few minutes to get over there. In that time, a significant number of people left the area, Contee said.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at email@example.com.