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The Department of Justice unveiled seditious conspiracy charges against 11 defendants, including the founder and leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, for their role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes speaks during the Patriots Day Free Speech Rally in Berkeley, California, April 15, 2017. (REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)
FILE PHOTO: Jessica Marie Watkins, second from left, and Donovan Ray 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 Trump in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. Both have since been indicted by federal authorities for their roles in the siege on the U.S. Capitol. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo/File Photo)
FILE – Members of the Oath Keepers militia group, including Jessica Marie Watkins, left, who has since been indicted by federal authorities for her role in the siege on the U.S, Capitol, stand among supporters of President Trump protesting against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, on the east front steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
On Jan. 6, 2021, after then-President Trump had repeatedly claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, thousands of his supporters left his rally at Freedom Plaza near the White House and headed toward the Capitol. Lawmakers evacuated the complex and temporarily suspended the certification of the Electoral College results as rioters broke through police lines and entered the building.
A Capitol Police officer fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, who was attempting to force her way into the House chamber. Another person died during the riot after suffering a drug overdose, and two others died naturally from medical emergencies. Brian Sicknick, a 42-year-Capitol Police officer, got hit with pepper-spray during the chaos and died the next day after suffering from two thromboembolic strokes. Four other officers who responded to the riot committed suicide in the months following.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia had previously charged more than 700 people across the country for their alleged participation in the riot, including at least 81 current or former service members, CBS News reported. About 275 of those defendants have been charged with a felony offense of “attempting to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede” the Electoral College certification.
More than 150 of the defendants have pleaded guilty, and 71 had been sentenced as of Jan. 1, according to Politico. Most of these sentenced Jan. 6 offenders had been convicted of misdemeanors, such as illegally entering the Capitol building, and fewer than half of them have received prison time. The median prison sentence for the Capitol rioters was 45 days, as of Jan. 6, 2022.
Robert Palmer – who admitted to throwing a wooden plank at police outside the Capitol and to spraying a fire extinguisher at officers, then throwing the empty device at police – has received the stiffest sentence to date, more than five years in prison.
Democrats and media outlets have framed the riot as an “insurrection,” yet no defendants had faced charges of insurrection or sedition until the new charges against Rhodes and others on Jan. 13.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump one week after the riot for “incitement of insurrection,” with 10 Republicans voting in favor, the most pro-impeachment votes ever from a president’s party. Trump left office on Jan. 20 and the Senate acquitted him more than three weeks later.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.