In no time, federal agents began searching social networks, analyzing videos, and verifying anonymous reports to clarify responsibilities following the attack on the Temple Capitol of American Democracy on January 6.
This “huge,” “massive” work is “one of the largest investigations in FBI history,” says Lorenzo Vidino, director of the “Program on Extremism” at George Washington University.
– a long list –
These efforts made it possible, in nearly a year, to arrest and indict more than 725 supporters of former President Donald Trump, who stormed Congressional headquarters when they heard him say elections had been stolen. Congressmen testified to Joe’s victory over Biden.
Names are added to the list almost every day: the federal police initially named 800 participants, but now believe at least 2,000 were “involved in the siege.”
– White men –
The defendants are predominantly male (87%), white, with a median age of 39, “above the normal age for extremists”, underlines Widino, whose research center compiles all of the indictments made.
They come from all over the country and have different socioeconomic profiles (lawyers, landscapers, real estate agents, etc.), but people with military experience and bankruptcy abound.
Among them are the far-right, conspirators but also simple supporters of Donald Trump who are convinced of the need to wage a post-election crusade.
– Crime –
Most of the people involved, who were apparently content to visit the building, are being prosecuted for petty offences, such as violating an entry ban or breaching public order.
Prosecutors are trying them quickly through a plea agreement: some 165 people have already taken advantage of the system and some 50 sentences have been handed out.
Most are mild: A young man who confessed to stealing beer at Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office was sentenced to 20 days in prison, which he would serve on weekends to keep his job.
But Jacob Chansley, 34, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, becoming one of the iconic faces of the attack with his buffalo horn headdress.
His lawyer, Al Watkins, denounced these differences, which, according to him, send the “wrong message”. “It doesn’t seem fair to those who consider themselves political prisoners” and risk reinforcing them in their positions, he told AFP.
– Violent minorities –
The harshest punishments were known until recently and about 225 people were charged with committing violent acts, particularly against Capitol police officers.
Robert Palmer, 54, has been sentenced to just five years in prison for throwing a board and a fire extinguisher at officers.
In this group, some 40 people are also being prosecuted for “criminal association”, implying that the attack was planned. The allegations, the most serious, are specifically aimed at members of the extreme right-wing groups Proud Boys, Oath Keepers or the Three Percentors.
These defendants, some of whom have been in preventive custody for months, will be tried by popular jury. The first trial may take place in February. The 30-year-old New Yorker, a member of the Proud Boys, has just struck a deal with prosecutors with whom he will cooperate in exchange for a reduced sentence.
No one has yet been charged with “treason” or “rebellion”, charges that are difficult to prove. According to Vidino, prosecutors “try to be as imaginative as they can within a restrictive legal framework.” In the United States, experts recall, foreign extremist groups can be investigated, but not American organizations with radical and violent ideologies.
It is yet to be determined who, among those who did not go to the scene, instigated or plotted the attack.
For now, prosecutors have left the task of investigation to Congressmen.
Although Republican senators allowed Trump’s impeachment acquittal in February, the former president is not out of the woods.
A House investigative committee is trying to find out what role Trump and his aides played. If you can gather evidence to charge you, prosecutors can use that. Only then can a new page of this comprehensive research be opened.
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