The Capitol siege: The cases behind the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history
Updated July 1, 2022 at 3:44 PM ET
Editor's note: This story was first published on Feb. 9, 2021. It is regularly updated, and includes explicit language.
On Jan. 6, 2021, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump broke through police lines and stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing a panicked evacuation of top political leaders and threatening the country's peaceful transfer of power. The violent attack was an act of domestic terrorism, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Approximately 140 members of law enforcement suffered injuries in the attack, many at the hands of rioters wielding pepper spray, metal pipes and American flags fashioned into clubs. Those injuries included brain damage and crushed spinal discs. Five people ultimately died during or soon after the riot, though not all their deaths have been directly attributed to the events that day. One woman, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by Capitol police. More than $2.5 million of damage was done to the Capitol.
In response to the attack, the Department of Justice launched what has become the largest criminal investigation in American history, involving scores of federal investigators and prosecutors across the country.
So far, more than 850 people have been charged with crimes, and that number continues to steadily grow. The FBI has estimated that 2,000 people may have been involved in the attack that day. Law enforcement has arrested alleged rioters in nearly all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The defendants appear to be largely white, though not entirely. Federal prosecutors say far-right militia members decked out in tactical gear rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
In an effort to better understand the violent attack on the Capitol, its alleged perpetrators and the threat it posed to American democracy, NPR is tracking every criminal case stemming from that day's events. This database makes publicly available — and searchable — data on hundreds of cases, including metrics such as a defendant's age, location, alleged affiliation with extremist organizations, past or present law enforcement or military experience, and the latest status of their case.
In public comments and court documents, the Justice Department has roughly put the cases into three categories: those who conspired over days, weeks and even months to attack the Capitol; those who allegedly violently attacked police, often with the use of weapons; and the remainder who breached the building as part of the mob, but did not commit other crimes. Fifty-eight defendants have been charged with conspiracy. At least 218 defendants have been charged with violence.
So far, 321 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges stemming from the riot. Judges have handed down sentences to 200 people. 44% of those people who have been sentenced received prison time. The average prison sentence across all defendants who pleaded guilty is 96 days. Six defendants have had jury trials, each one convicted on all counts. Five defendants have had bench trials - two mixed verdict, one full acquittal, two guilty on all counts. Four cases in federal court were dismissed, and eight cases in D.C. Superior Court were dismissed.
Among the other findings of this database:
NPR found at least 14% of those charged appear to have ties to the military or to law enforcement. The presence of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as military service members and veterans, has especially alarmed government officials.
At least 138 defendants have alleged ties to known extremist or fringe organizations, such as the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon; the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for street violence; the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group; and the Three Percenters, a part of the anti-government militia movement. A large majority of those charged, however, have no known connections to established extremist groups. That has led researchers to raise concerns about how extremist ideologies have moved increasingly into the mainstream.
Explore the database below.
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