The Justice Department announced the first round of arrests and charges stemming from Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riot by a pro-Trump mob, with a West Virginia state legislator among those charged.
Derrick Evans, a recently elected West Virginia Republican lawmaker, was arrested and charged with illegal entry. Evans livestreamed himself entering the besieged Capitol Building. His attorney told local news outlet WVNS that Evans is innocent, that his actions were protected First Amendment activities, and that Evans would not be resigning.
Alabama resident Lonnie Coffman was also arrested and charged with allegedly carrying 11 Molotov cocktails on Capitol grounds. According to an affidavit unsealed today, Capitol Police sweeping the Capitol grounds found a pistol, an M4 carbine, and 11 Mason jars filled with gasoline, along with rags and lighters, in Coffman’s truck.
And in Arkansas, Richard Barnett, who was photographed with his feet up on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has been arrested and charged with entering and remaining on restricted grounds, violent entry, and theft of public property.
The Justice Department announced federal charges against 11 others in connection to the riot.
Five people died in the chaos, including an unarmed woman who was fatally shot in the throat by a law enforcement officer. A Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, was pronounced dead last night from injuries received in the melee, adding significantly to the gravity of the potential charges some of the rioters may face.
Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the FBI Washington Field Office said today on a call with reporters they have hundreds of investigators and prosecutors working on the cases.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and fellow officers of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who succumbed last night to the injuries he suffered defending the U.S. Capitol, against the violent mob who stormed it on January 6th,” Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a press release. “The FBI and Metropolitan Police Department will jointly investigate the case and the Department of Justice will spare no resources in investigating and holding accountable those responsible.”
Today’s charges and arrests follow 40 defendants being charged yesterday with unlawful entry.
Some Democrats are already floating harsher punishments and new legislation in response to the riot. For example, the House Committee on Homeland Security is asking the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to add participants to the no-fly list.
After calls from flight attendants to ban insurrectionists from flights out of DC, the House Homeland Security Committee is now asking the FBI and TSA to add perpetrators to the no-fly list. pic.twitter.com/dvWcRiOVpD
— Sam Mintz (@samjmintz) January 7, 2021
Reason has explained many times why the no-fly list is a civil liberties nightmare, namely that it’s just about impossible for anyone placed on it, even by mistake, to challenge his inclusion.
Other ideas include adding a domestic terrorism statute to the books. “Domestic terrorism” isn’t currently a federal crime, nor should it be. As Reason‘s J.D. Tuccille argued, such a statute “is bound to threaten liberty more than it hampers terrorists.”
There are plenty of laws already covering the actions of the mob, and rioters can be prosecuted without the need to resort to unaccountable government lists or vague new crimes.
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