Jan. 6 Capitol riot a year later: Over 700 rioters charged, DOJ won't say if feds were involved

"How many January 6th protesters were actually working for the federal government?" Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted on Thursday.
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Merrick Garland.
Merrick Garland at confirmation hearing February 22, 2021, Washington, DC.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A year after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the Justice Department has charged more than 700 people in connection with the incident while refusing to answer questions regarding whether federal agents were involved in instigating it.

At least 600 of those charges were misdemeanors for entering or remaining within restricted Capitol grounds, offenses punishable by a maximum one-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine, CBS News reported.

Other minor charges include illegal picketing and disorderly or disruptive conduct on Capitol grounds, which hundreds of defendants have been charged with.

One of the more common felony offenses charged is corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding — or attempting to — the official proceeding of certifying Electoral College votes. About 275 defendants are accused of acting in ways that impede or obstruct the normal function of government, which carries a 20-year-maximum prison sentence.

A minimum of 225 defendants have received charges of assaulting, impeding, or resisting law enforcement during the riot, 75 of whom are also accused of using a dangerous or deadly weapon against officers, such as flagpoles, chemical irritants, and a tomahawk axe.

About 45 defendants were charged with the destruction of government property, and during proceedings for at least three of them, the government said their crimes on the grounds of the Capitol amounted to "terrorism," an allegation made without an actual charge of terrorism.

More than 40 defendants were charged as being part of a broader conspiracy, including nearly 20 Oath Keepers, about a dozen Proud Boys members or affiliates, and four alleged Three Percenter militia members. 

At least 30 defendants have been charged with theft of government property, including Riley June Williams, who allegedly stole a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. Williams has pled not guilty and requested multiple times to have some charges thrown out.

Approximately 10 defendants have been charged with assaulting a media member or destroying their equipment during Jan. 6 coverage.

No one has been charged with sedition, which is attempting to overthrow the government, CBS News noted.

In March, FBI Director Christopher Wray called the Capitol riot "domestic terrorism."

That same month, then-acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told "60 Minutes" he believed "the facts do support" the charge of sedition. Sherwin has since left both the investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

More than 160 defendants have pleaded guilty, of whom over 85% admitted to nonviolent misdemeanor crimes, according to CBS News.

At least 70 defendants who pled guilty have been sentenced. The longest sentence so far has been 63 months for 54-year-old Robert Palmer, who admitted to attacking police officers with a fire extinguisher.

The Capitol suffered more than a million dollars in damages, and about 140 law enforcement members — 80 U.S. Capitol Police officers and 60 D.C. Metropolitan Police officers — were allegedly assaulted.

Four people died on Jan. 6, including Ashli Babbitt, who was shot by a Capitol Police officer inside the Capitol building, and three others who had separate medical emergencies. On Jan. 7, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died after being sprayed with a chemical substance on Jan. 6, later collapsing, and ultimately dying from two strokes.

Even as the investigation has stretched on for the past year, the Department of Justice has yet to answer whether or not federal agents were involved in it.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing in October, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) showed a video compilation of Ray Epps, an apparent Trump supporter who tells people on both Jan. 5 and 6 "to go into the Capitol." When he suggests this on the night of Jan. 5, people start chanting, "Fed! Fed! Fed!" as they suspected that he was a federal agent.

Epps has not faced charges for any role he might have played in inciting the breach.

After playing the video, Massie asked Attorney General Merrick Garland during the committee hearing if there were any federal agents or assets of the federal government at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Garland said he couldn't comment on an ongoing investigation.

"Attorney General Merrick Garland can absolutely answer questions about whether Feds encouraged the January 6 crowd to breach the Capitol," Massie tweeted, along with a video of him discussing his exchange with Garland with Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

On Thursday, Massie tweeted the video compilation of Epps that he had shown during the committee hearing — in addition to articles from Revolver about Epps — asking, "How many January 6th protesters were actually working for the federal government?"

In a brief phone interview with The Arizona Republic last year shortly after the Capitol breach, Epps reportedly confirmed he'd been at the Capitol for the event but said he'd been advised by his attorney not to speak about his role.

"I think the truth needs to get out," he said, according to the outlet, adding: "I didn't do anything wrong."