Capitol riots prosecutor suggests some suspects will be charged with sedition

A former federal prosecutor leading Justice Department’s investigation into the storming of the US capital building and the criminal culpability of Donald Trump in the 6 January riots that left five people dead, has said that the probe supports sedition charges.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Michael Sherwin, the former acting attorney for District of Columbia, told CBS News. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

Mr Sherwin further said the investigation is still looking into whether former president Donald Trump is criminally responsible for the riots.

“It’s unequivocal that Trump was the magnet that brought the people to DC on the 6th. Now the question is, is he criminally culpable for everything that happened during the siege, during the breach?” he said.

Mr Trump’s critics have alleged that the then-President had called on his supporters to rally in Washington and march to the Capitol to “stop the steal” that culminated in the riots at Capitol hill.

“And we fight. We fight like hell. If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Mr Trump had said, following which hundreds of supporters had breached the Capitol building in an attempt to prevent the joint congressional meeting from certifying  Joe Biden as the next president of the country.

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The Justice Department has so far not pursued sedition charges against any of the 400 suspects it has booked under various sections including trespassing and assault of officers. Mr Sherwin told CBS that about 10 per cent of the cases are “more complex conspiracy cases” where the prosecutors have evidence that individuals from right militia groups such as Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and Proud Boys did come to the Capitol with a “plan”.

He added that the nature of their plan is unclear at the moment.

“What makes this case so monumental, there are hundreds of defendants in a limited area, dispersing,” Mr Sherwin said. “And a variety of crimes being investigated, everything from murder to assaults to theft of government property, the theft of art.”

The department rarely brought charges of sedition against the accused. The last time federal prosecutors brought on this charge of the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government, was in 2010 when they accused members of a Michigan militia of plotting to provoke an armed conflict with the government but were later acquitted.

Dismissing the charges against the five members of the militia, the court said that the prosecutors failed to prove that the group had concrete plans to attack anyone.

The sedition charges are such a rarity that prior to the 2010 case, that the Justice Department had brought seditious conspiracy only twice since 1993, reported Lawfare. In 2003, the charges were brought against two individuals — Jeffrey Battle and Patrice Lumumba Ford — for their links to al-Qaeda. The pair was awarded 18 years of prison.

And in 1993, the Justice Department had booked Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman along with nine others on charges of seditious conspiracy for his role in the World Trade Center bombing and the related spree of planned attacks across New York. The bombing had killed six people and more than 1,000 were injured. Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life in prison along with Ramzi Youssef.

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