Federal prosecutors investigate possible seditious conspiracy charges in Capitol assault

Federal prosecutors investigate possible seditious conspiracy charges in Capitol assault

01/13/2021

A Washington, D.C. federal prosecutor says his office is looking into possible seditious conspiracy charges as a part of a massive, “unprecedented” federal investigation into the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said Tuesday a “strike force” of senior national security and public corruption prosecutors within his office are investigating charges related to the “most heinous” acts that occurred at the Capitol. Sherwin said the team is investigating whether rioters coordinated and planned their assault, combing through travel records, financial information and communications.

Since the assault, which left a Capitol Police officer and four others dead, the FBI has opened more than 170 “subject files,” meaning individuals identified as potentially having committed a crime either inside or outside the Capitol, Sherwin said. Of those, more than 70 people are facing charges in local and federal court, with a range of counts including unlawful entry, disorderly conduct, theft, assault, and weapons violations. 

Sherwin said some of those already charged with lower-level offenses like trespassing could face more serious felony charges as prosecutors continue to build their case. 

#FBIWFO is offering a reward of up to $50K for info leading to the location, arrest & conviction of the person(s) responsible for the pipe bombs found in DC on Jan. 6. https://t.co/q9pdw6Rnoy pic.twitter.com/aQ7Vz4uydO

Seditious conspiracy — defined as two or more people who conspire to overthrow the government by force, oppose the government’s authority by force, or “prevent, hinder or delay” the execution of any U.S. law by force — is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Sherwin said the office is prioritizing the prosecution of assaults on local and federal officers both inside and outside the Capitol, saying some officers were engaged in “open-handed combat” with some of the rioters.

“I think people are going to be shocked with some of the egregious contact that happened within the Capitol,” Sherwin said. 

Sherwin said a team of prosecutors had also been assigned to investigating assaults on members of the media, some of whom were “specifically targeted” by the mob. The office was also prioritizing crimes involving weapons and destructive devices, Sherwin said. 

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 for info leading to the arrest and conviction of a person wanted for planting pipe bombs outside the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters on the day of the assault.

Sherwin said other possible charges included theft of potential national security information, felony murder and civil rights excessive force investigations. 

Sherwin called the scope and scale of the federal investigation “unprecedented,” with thousands of potential witnesses and likely hundreds more suspects to be charged in the coming weeks as investigators comb through social media and a flood of digital tips. 

Steven D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said his investigators have received more than 100,000 pieces of digital media, which he called “absolutely fantastic.” He asked the public to continue submitting tips.

Sherwin said investigators are focused on the most significant charges as a “deterrent” but issued a warning to anyone involved in the riot: “Regardless of whether it was just a trespass in the Capitol or someone planted a pipe bomb, you will be charged and you will be found.”  

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