Attorney General Merrick Garland updated the public on the federal government’s unprecedented investigation into those who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection during a Wednesday afternoon press conference, marking the anniversary of the Capitol riot by promising to hold accountable those responsible for the day's events amid criticism of his department.
“Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of January 6, 2021: The day the United States Capitol was attacked while lawmakers meant to affirm the results of a presidential election,” Garland said. “Those involved must be held accountable. And there is no higher priority for us at the Department of Justice.”
Garland has been criticized for his quieter approach, even called "weak" by one Democratic representative, Ruben Gallego of Arizona, on CNN this week.
In the year since a violent group of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill, many intent on stopping lawmakers from certifying the 2020 presidential election in favor of Joe Biden, more than 720 people have been arrested across nearly all 50 states in connection to the violence in Washington that day.
Over 220 individuals have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes, 56 of whom pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
At least 165 people have pleaded guilty, mostly to crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of six months. And there are dozens of cases involving more serious offenses still moving through the system.
The arrests cover nearly all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., although some states are more heavily represented in the makeup of participants than others.
Here is where the Justice Department’s investigation into the participants of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection stands today:
After sifting through over 20,000 hours of video footage, searching over 2,000 devices, collecting more than 15 terabytes of data and receiving over 300,000 tips from Americans, authorities have arrested and charged individuals across nearly every state in the year since the insurrection, Garland said Wednesday.
The states with the highest number of participants – and associated arrests – have so far proven to be Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. While some charges have since been dropped, both Florida and Texas have each seen over 60 arrests in connection to Jan. 6; New York has seen around 48 arrests; over 40 arrests have taken place across California and there have been just under 60 arrests in Pennsylvania, per government data.
Garland on Wednesday made clear that the Department of Justice intentionally moved forward with lesser charges at the outset of its investigation, saying the practice helps “conserve both judicial and prosecutorial resources so that attention can properly focus on the more serious perpetrators.
“In charging the perpetrators, we have followed well-worn prosecutorial practices,” Garland said Wednesday. “Those who assaulted officers or damaged the Capitol face greater charges. Those who conspired with others to obstruct the vote count also face greater charges."
"Those who did not undertake such conduct have been charged with lesser offenses, particularly if they accepted their responsibility early and cooperated with the investigation," he added.
As of Wednesday, the Justice Department had charged over 325 individuals with felonies, the vast majority of which are for assaulting officers and for obstructing, or attempting to obstruct, an official proceeding. To date, 20 defendants charged with felonies have pleaded guilty. Another 40 individuals have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding or law enforcement.
In the months ahead, 17 defendants are set to go on trial in felony cases for their alleged involvement in conspiracies to stop the electoral college count.
Many other prominent cases remain unresolved. Dozens of people linked to extremist groups have been charged with conspiring to carry out coordinated attacks on the Capitol, including more than 20 defendants tied to the anti-government Oath Keepers and at least 16 connected to the far-right Proud Boys.
At least five people associated with the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty. At least one Proud Boys member has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. None of them has been sentenced yet.
Anna Morgan-Lloyd of Indiana was the first person sentenced for participating in the Capitol riot in late June of last year. Lloyd, who avoided jail time, was ordered by a federal judge to serve three years of probation, perform 120 hours of community service and pay $500 in restitution after admitting to unlawfully entering the Capitol. She pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge under a deal with prosecutors.
Morgan-Lloyd told Senior Judge Royce Lamberth in June that she was ashamed of the “savage display of violence” at the Capitol. A day later, however, the Indiana woman told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that people were “very polite” during the riot, that she saw “relaxed” police officers chatting with rioters and that she didn’t believe the Jan. 6 attack was an insurrection.
Her inconsistency didn’t escape Lamberth’s notice. In a footnote to an order in another case, the judge said his “hopes have been recently dashed” when Morgan-Lloyd’s Fox interview “directly conflicted with the contrite statements that she made” to him.
To date, the toughest sentence has been handed down to Robert Palmer of Florida, who in mid-December was sentenced to more than five years behind bars for attacking Capitol police officers working to hold back the angry pro-Trump mob.
Palmer made his way to the front line during the chaos and started to attack, throwing a wooden plank, spraying a fire extinguisher, then hurling it when it was done. He rooted around for other objects, prosecutors said. He was briefly pepper-sprayed by police before he attacked officers again with a pole. He pleaded guilty to attacking officers.
Palmer said in a handwritten letter to the judge that he felt betrayed by Trump and his allies who fed them conspiracy theories.
“Trump supporters were lied to by those at the time who had great power,” he wrote. “They kept spitting out the false narrative about a stolen election and how it was ‘our duty’ to stand up to tyranny.”
So far, 71 people have been sentenced for riot-related crimes. They include a company CEO, an architect, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, a gym owner, a former Houston police officer and a University of Kentucky student.
Just over 30 of those individuals were sentenced to various periods of incarceration, while 18 were sentenced to home detention. The other defendants were sentenced to probation with no jail time.
Eighteen judges, including four nominated by Trump, have sentenced the 71 defendants.
Some judges have rejected prosecutors’ recommendations for prison sentences. Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump nominee, said it is “almost unheard of” for first-time offenders to get jail time for nonviolent misdemeanors. Howell questioned why a short jail term for riot defendant Glen Wes Lee Croy, without a longer term of court supervision, would be the best way to ensure that the Colorado man “stays on a law-abiding path.”
One major investigation that has stalled is finding who placed pipe bombs near the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committee headquarters the day before the chaos unfolded on Capitol Hill.
The suspect was covered from head to toe, skulking through the dark streets of the nation's capital before methodically placing two explosives outside the offices on Jan. 5, 2021.
Only 17 hours later — and just before the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a sea of pro-Trump rioters — were the pipe bombs discovered. It quickly became one of the highest-priority investigations for the FBI and the Justice Department.
But the trail grew cold almost immediately. A year later, federal investigators are no closer to learning the person's identity. And a key question remains: Was there a connection between the pipe bombs and the riot at the Capitol?
In the search for the person who left the pipe bombs at the RNC and DNC offices, investigators have interviewed more than 900 people, collected 39,000 video files and examined more than 400 leads. They have dived into the components of the explosives and have been working to try to discern anything they can about the suspect, from analyzing the person's gait to trying to collect information about purchases of the distinctive Nike sneakers the person wore.
But they are still no closer to finding the suspect's identity and are hoping renewed attention on the video of the person may spark a tip to crack the case.
"We've used and continue to use every investigative tool that we lawfully have to find this individual," said Steven D'Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's field office in Washington.
But, a year later, investigators still don't know whether the suspect is a man or a woman. The person carried the bombs — made of threaded galvanized pipes, kitchen timers and homemade black powder — in a backpack.
"We're still nose to the grindstone here and trying to find this individual, trying to bring the person to justice," D'Antuono said. "But there is hopefully maybe somebody still out there that knows the person or sees the video again."
The FBI is currently offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the location, arrest or conviction for the individual – or individuals – responsible for planting the explosives.