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Prosecutors Expect at Least 100 More Arrests in US Capitol Attack

FILE - Jessica Watkins, second from left, and Donovan Crowl, center, both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of President Donald Trump in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
FILE - Jessica Watkins, second from left, and Donovan Crowl, center, both from Ohio, march down the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol with the Oath Keepers militia group among supporters of President Donald Trump in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. prosecutors say they expect at least 100 more people to be charged in connection with the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, bringing to more than 400 the number of people potentially facing prosecution in the attack.

The disclosure was made in court papers filed Friday in a wide-ranging case against nine members of the anti-government Oath Keepers who are facing conspiracy charges in the attack. Three other members of the group have been arrested separately.

Of an estimated 800 supporters of former President Donald Trump who breached the complex to try to overturn Trump’s defeat in the November presidential election, more than 300 have been charged, with new charges brought nearly every day.

Hundreds at large

But hundreds of others, many captured in photographs and videos, remain at large, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continues to hunt for them.

“The investigation continues and the government expects that at least 100 additional individuals will be charged,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing asking for more time to prepare their case against the Oath Keepers.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy group, calls the Oath Keepers “one of the largest radical anti-government groups” in the United States. It claims tens of thousands of members.

Last month, Jessica Watkins, a ringleader of the Oath Keepers members who breached the Capitol, publicly disavowed the group.

“Given the result of everything on January 6 and everything that has come out,” Watkins said during a court hearing, “my fellow Oath Keepers have turned my stomach against it. Which is why I’m canceling my Oath Keeper membership.”

The Friday filing suggests that dozens, perhaps hundreds of individuals who entered the Capitol without committing violence will likely be spared criminal prosecution, as investigators focus on the most violent offenders and others who planned the attack.

“Convicting someone of a crime means proving both an act and that the act was committed with a particular state of mind,” said a former law enforcement official who asked not to be named in discussing internal Justice Department deliberations. “I suspect there is some concern about whether the state of mind really can be proven for some of the individuals who entered the Capitol but did not behave violently.”

The attack on the Capitol, the seat of the U.S. government, left a police officer and four others dead and more than 100 people injured. It has spawned what prosecutors described in court documents Friday as one of the largest investigations and prosecutions in American history, “both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence.”

Range of charges

According to recent analyses of the charges related to the Capitol attack, the vast majority of those charged to date have no known ties to groups such as the Oath Keepers. The charges range from trespassing and violent conduct on Capitol grounds to assaulting police officers and conspiracy against the United States.

With evidence growing that members of the Oath Keepers, the pro-Trump Proud Boys and other groups planned the attack weeks in advance, the number of conspiracy charges is expected to grow, according to current and former law enforcement officials. Proud Boys is another far-right group. More than a dozen members of the group have been charged with breaching the Capitol.

While law enforcement officials say they intend to bring to justice all those responsible for the attack, officials are increasingly distinguishing between Trump supporters who got swept up in the crowd and the more violent offenders who whipped up the rioters.

“We’re seeing people that got caught up in the moment, got caught up in the energy, et cetera, and made their way into the Capitol, and those are probably the ones that you’re seeing of charges simply of trespassing,” Jill Shanborn, the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence, testified before told a joint Senate hearing last week.

“And then we’re definitely seeing that portion which is small groups and cells now being charged with conspiracy that coalesced either onsite or even days or weeks prior and had sort of an intent that day,” Shanborn said. “And they too probably caught people up in the energy.”

The nine members of the Oath Keepers, several of them military veterans, are being prosecuted as a group and face multiple conspiracy charges. They stand accused of forming a tactical formation known as a “stack” to storm the Capitol, an operation allegedly planned weeks in advance of the attack.

Several of the accused have pleaded not guilty and disassociated themselves from the organization.