Hundreds of Jan. 6 Cases
At the heart of the Jan. 6 investigation are the cases against the riot suspects.Nineteen months after the Jan. 6 attack, hundreds of criminal cases that stem from it are playing out in court. They have been getting less attention than the Justice Department’s scrutiny of Donald Trump, but my colleague Alan Feuer has spent hours and hours watching these trials. This morning, he offers you a glimpse of them.Ian: Who are the Jan. 6 defendants, and what are they charged with?Alan: It’s a wide range. People from all 50 states have been prosecuted. Most are white men from middle- or working-class backgrounds, but there are also women, Hispanic people, Black people. A lot have military backgrounds. There are also professional people, which is unusual for an event involving far-right extremism: doctors, a State Department aide, business owners, people who flew there on a private jet.Most have been charged with misdemeanors and have gotten little to no prison time. Others have been charged with assaulting police officers or damaging government property. And a few hundred people have been charged with obstructing Congress’ certification that day of the Electoral College vote. About 350 defendants have pleaded guilty, and more than 200 have been sentenced. About half a dozen have gotten four years or more, and two have gotten more than seven years.The government is still arresting people, and prosecutors estimate around 2,000 could ultimately face charges.The hearings open windows into defendants’ lives, many of which seem quite dysfunctional. You covered the trial of a defendant named Guy Reffitt, a Texas militia member whose own son turned him in to the F.B.I. and testified against him.If someone is being criminally prosecuted, there’s often some dysfunction in their past. But I’ve been struck by how trauma rests at the center of so many of the Jan. 6 defendants’ lives, whether it’s poverty, addiction or deep family dysfunction. You also see defendants say things to the judge like, I’ve lost everything because of what I did on Jan. 6. My job has been taken from me. My neighbors no longer talk to me. My church has essentially excommunicated me. Please don’t send me to prison as well.Hundreds of defendants are being prosecuted, all in federal court in Washington. How do you keep up?Covid restrictions enabled remote access, which lets me jump from courtroom to courtroom with the push of a button and listen to multiple hearings over the phone in a day.The big exception is trials. I’ve covered two in Washington in person — the Reffitt trial and the case against Dustin Thompson, an unemployed Ohio exterminator. Two seditious conspiracy cases — against members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, two far-right groups — will likely go to trial later this year, and I’ll almost certainly be in the courtroom for those. I prefer the courtroom. You pick up on body language and facial expressions that aren’t available when you’re just listening in.How many Jan. 6 hearings have you listened to?Hundreds. It’s not really countable at this point.How did you become the reporter who covers these hearings?I’ve covered courts and crime for over 20 years: murders, mafia and police corruption trials and the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo. I’ve also spent a lot of time covering far-right extremist groups. As I watched the Jan. 6 attack on TV, I actually recognized people in the crowd. As people started getting arrested, I did what I’ve always done: track documents and set up a database of the now 850-plus cases.Pro-Trump protesters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Erin Schaff/The New York TimesHow are these cases different from other criminal proceedings?On one level, the process is the same: Defendants get charged. Some plead guilty, some go to trial. People are acquitted or convicted. But the context is very different. Jan. 6 was a political action that became a federal crime, and politics infuses these cases. Some defendants have argued that they’re being persecuted for their political beliefs. Thompson’s defense was that Trump authorized him to go into the Capitol that day and that he was merely following Trump’s orders. That did not fly in front of a jury. I’ve never covered anything that’s taken place in an atmosphere as polarized as this one.Trump seems to have motivated not only some Jan. 6 defendants to commit violence, but also people who have threatened the F.B.I. after agents searched his home, Mar-a-Lago, this month. Do you see parallels between the groups?The Ohio man who attacked the F.B.I. field office in Cincinnati this month was, in fact, outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. The F.B.I. investigated his role in the riot but never arrested him. In a larger sense, one researcher has found that 15 to 20 million Americans think violence would be justified to return Trump to office. We’ve seen this in the reaction to the Mar-a-Lago raid, but I’m also concerned about what a potential criminal prosecution of Trump could bring. What will the reaction be if Trump is indicted? What will happen on the day he appears in court? What will happen if he goes to trial and is convicted? There may be moments when the risk of violence in defense of Trump is high.As threats of violence become more widespread, it can create an atmosphere in which the threshold for committing actual violence is lowered. When violent rhetoric becomes pervasive, people willing to commit violence feel justified. They feel like there’s community support. It enables them. That’s a reality we all have to start grappling with.More about Alan: Before becoming a reporter, he worked for a private detective agency run by two former New York City police officers. He later spent three years as a stringer for The Times, covering fires, murders and other middle-of-the-night stories in New York before joining the staff in 1999. In 2020, he published a book about El Chapo.For moreIn his final days in office, Trump had done little to leave the White House — but he had packed papers instead of sending them to the National Archives.An associate sought a pardon for Rudolph Giuliani just after the Jan. 6 attack, but the request was intercepted before it reached Trump.NEWSInternationalDestroyed Russian armored vehicles were paraded yesterday in Kyiv.Jim Huylebroek for The New York TimesUkrainian attacks in Crimea, including a drone assault yesterday, appeared on Russian social media, putting domestic pressure on the Kremlin.Mexico’s former attorney general was arrested in connection with the abduction and likely massacre of 43 students in 2014.Two pilots for Africa’s largest airline fell asleep and missed their scheduled window to land in Ethiopia.Other Big StoriesAn influx of migrants has strained New York City’s social safety net.Republican candidates are invoking “the American dream” in a pessimistic tone.UPS drivers, whose trucks lack air conditioning, say heat waves are endangering them.The actor Gary Busey was charged with criminal sexual contact and harassment related to an encounter at a fan convention in New Jersey.FROM OPINIONIf the Justice Department goes after Trump, it can’t afford to miss, Ross Douthat says. Damon Linker thinks voters, not prosecutors, should take down Trump.The dream of a secular, liberal Indian democracy is receding, Maya Jasanoff argues.Let’s skip the “Game of Thrones” prequel, says Scott Woods.The Sunday question: How will Democrats’ legislative successes affect the midterm elections?Democrats’ achievements on climate and gun control could energize base voters and blunt the losses the president’s party typically suffers, New York Magazine’s Ed Kilgore writes. But consumer confidence and Biden’s job approval remain low, and voters overall tend not to reward big policy victories, The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter notes.MORNING READSJoyce Lee for The New York TimesWeed drinks: They’re becoming widely available, but doctors know little about the effects.Sunday routine: A wine writer plays folk music and visits wine bars.Pickleball: Its popularity is growing rapidly. So is the injury count.A Times classic: The best way to cool your space.Advice from Wirecutter: How to pick the right computer for your kid.BOOKSRead your way through Reykjavik: Iceland has a reputation for having more authors per capita than any country.By the Book: When Frances Mayes discovers that the author of a good book has written others, “that’s bliss.”Our editors’ picks: “Picasso’s War,” a narrative of how modern art came to be celebrated in the U.S., and 10 other books.Times best sellers: Rinker Buck shares his adventures on a wooden flatboat in “Life On The Mississippi,” a nonfiction best seller. See all our lists.THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINEPhilip Montgomery for The New York TimesOn the cover: Willie Nelson’s long encore.Recommendation: Write fan mail to artists you admire.Diagnosis: She couldn’t stand still without pain. What was wrong?Eat: Late summer tomatoes are perfect for Spaghetti al Pomodoro.Read the full issue.THE WEEK AHEADWhat to Watch ForA detective tied to the fatal Breonna Taylor raid is expected to enter a guilty plea on Monday. She would be the first officer convicted in the case.Florida and New York will hold primary elections on Tuesday.Senator Lindsey Graham was ordered to testify before a grand jury on Tuesday in a Georgia investigation into Republican efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s election loss.Wednesday marks six months since Russia invaded Ukraine, as well as Ukraine’s Independence Day.New jobless claims will be announced on Thursday.So-called trigger bans on abortion in Idaho, Tennessee and Texas will go into effect on Thursday.The college football season kicks off on Saturday.What to Cook This WeekKarsten Moran for The New York TimesMussels seem luxurious, but they are among the most budget-friendly seafood options, Tanya Sichynsky writes. Her weeknight dinner recommendations include steamed mussels with garlic and parsley, sheet-pan gnocchi with mushrooms and spinach and linguine with lemon sauce.NOW TIME TO PLAYHere’s a clue from the Sunday crossword:72-Across: Pharmaceutical company whose Nasdaq symbol is MRNATake the news quiz to see how well you followed the week’s headlines.Here’s today’s Spelling Bee. Here’s today’s Wordle. After, use our bot to get better.Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times.Matthew Cullen, Claire Moses, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.