Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 could be charged with ‘sedition,’ prosecutor says

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, rioters supporting President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in Washington.
John Minchillo, Associated Press

The federal prosecutor who had been leading the criminal investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot said there is evidence that domestic militias had been planning for the riot in advance and that some rioters could be charged with sedition.

Federal attorney Michael Sherwin — who was appointed by the Trump administration to be Washington, D.C.’s interim lead prosecutor in 2020 — said he personally believes evidence against the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol deadly rioters is “trending towards” sedition. Sherwin’s comments were from an interview with CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley, which aired Sunday night.

“I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that,” the attorney responded when asked if he anticipated sedition charges against some rioters, CBS News reported.

Sherwin — who’d been leading the criminal investigation around the Capitol breach — added that the charge of sedition is not a legal “low bar,” meaning it’s more difficult to prove in court. He stepped down from his top prosecutor role earlier this month to allow the Biden administration to fill the position, according to The Washington Post.

But what is sedition?

The federal statute of “seditious conspiracy” includes the “conspiracy to overthrow the government,” The New York Times reported.

In legalese, the law says that seditious conspiracy is when “two or more persons ... conspire to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States,” according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. The federal law also says sedition is when these conspirators “delay the execution of any law of the United States” or use force “to seize, take or possess any property of the United States.”

If found guilty, the punishment could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine.

Sherwin said in the couple months since the deadly Jan. 6 riot, there are over 400 criminal cases “and the bulk of those cases are federal criminal charges, and significant federal felony charges,” according to CBS News.

Upwards of 100 of those cases include charges for “assaulting federal officers and local police officers,” the prosecutor told “60 Minutes.” Pelley also said 10% of the total cases include “more complex conspiracy cases” where federal investigators have evidence that militia groups — like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters — “did have a plan.”

The Trump administration appointed attorney “debunked claims” that “left-wing extremists posing as Trump supporters” had been part of the deadly riot, according to the Post.

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