Before a jury in a Washington, D.C. federal court began deliberating last week on whether to hold five leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group responsible for violence committed on Jan. 6, 2021, they were shown two videos.
One depicted a Black woman being knocked to the ground by a Proud Boy during a November 2020 pro-Trump protest in D.C., and the other showed defendant Zachary Rehl pepper-spraying police officers in the middle of the Jan. 6 riot, an attack that ultimately left five people, including one Capitol police officer, dead.
The Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed “Western chauvinists” who romanticize a traditional, male-dominated version of Western culture, were intimately involved in the planning ahead of Jan. 6 and sought to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Delivering the prosecution’s closing arguments on Monday, Assistant US Attorney Conor Mulroe told jurors that “these defendants saw themselves as Donald Trump’s army, fighting to keep their preferred leader in power.”
They were far from the only ones who thought this way on Jan. 6.
Other rioters are accused of everything from breaking federal property to assaulting police officers with fire extinguishers, all while stopping to take selfies, posing for photos, and live-streaming from inside the 220-year-old building.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the inquiries into Jan. 6 rioters represent “the most wide-ranging investigation,” in the history of the Department of Justice. More than 1,000 people have been charged in relation to the attack, according to the DOJ, and experts and Americans alike believe it’s important to prosecute these individuals to ensure that something similar doesn’t happen again.
It’s been a massive undertaking, in which every US Attorney’s office has been involved, as well as every FBI field office. The FBI has said that it’s been reviewing over four million files, including 30,000 video files, which amounts to over nine terabytes of information.
Here’s an update on who the defendants are, and where their cases stand:
The defendants are predominantly men, mostly white, and come from all 50 states. According to NPR, about 15% have a background in military or law enforcement. In contrast, only about 7% of the overall US population are military veterans, and less than 1% of the population are police or sheriff patrol officers.
There is a growing amount of research that shows that extremism is becoming more rampant among law enforcement and the military, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
One in four defendants are facing assault, or other violent charges, according to the DOJ, and 15% of those charged have known connections to extremist groups.
As of March, about half of the more than 1,000 people charged have pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ. Four-hundred forty five defendants have been sentenced, and 58% of them have been ordered to serve prison time: their sentences range in length from 7 days to 10 years, though the median length is just 60 days. Sixty-seven defendants have had jury or bench trials, 42 defendants have been convicted on all charges, and 24 have had mixed verdicts, meaning a jury convicted them of some, but not all charges. Only one person has been acquitted of all charges.
The five states with the most arrests are Florida (92), Texas (77), Pennsylvania (73), New York (61), and California (55).
In Florida, one of the most high-profile recent arrests is of Jesse James Rumson, who allegedly stormed the Capitol building while wearing a panda costume and resisted, or impeded an officer while engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds. Hundreds of Capitol rioters dubbed him the “Sedition Panda.” He was arrested in Lecanto.
Another rioter that drew outsized attention, far-right extremist Riley Williams, of Harrisburg, Pa., was recently sentenced to three years in prison for the crimes she committed, which include directing a mob toward the office of then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, where another rioter stole a laptop. Williams later bragged online about the laptop being stolen. After she was charged, she was still allowed to attend the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire twice while on house arrest awaiting her trial.
Earlier this month, news also broke that David Elizalde, a Navy sailor, was apparently stationed on a military aircraft carrier when he joined the pro-Trump mob, according to multiple reports citing court documents. Elizalde was arrested in Arlington, Va. on misdemeanor charges, including disorderly conduct inside a Capitol building.
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