Terrorism, Homicide Prosecutors Brought In To Try Capitol Riot Defendants For Crimes Like Trespassing

One DOJ attorney previously helped prosecute a man found guilty of working to support ISIS.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: A sign seeking information about people who breached the Capitol building is seen as the sun rises behind, seen from Pennsylvania Ave., which is within the secure area around downtown Washington DC on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's riots and security breach at the U.S. Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and across all 50 states.
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

High-level prosecutors from around the country will try cases against alleged participants in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, a Daily Wire review of court records shows.

The U.S. Attorney for Washington, D.C. has called in prosecutors from unrelated areas of its office, including the Violent Crime Narcotics Trafficking Section, Homicide Section, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section, and Major Crimes Section. In some cases the prosecutors from those departments are prosecuting misdemeanors only.

It has also called in prosecutors from special sections of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and from federal prosecutor’s offices across the country.

Steven Ward, a trial attorney at the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Section who is helping prosecute Capitol riot defendants, previously assisted in the case against a Brooklyn resident who was found guilty of working to support ISIS.

As the number of federal criminal cases against Capitol riot suspects climbs, the office has also brought in reinforcements from across the country, tapping at least 25 prosecutors from 17 states and Puerto Rico to prosecute at least 140 defendants in Capitol riot cases, The Daily Wire found.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benet Kearney, who is prosecuting at least four January 6 defendants accused of assaulting police officers, is on loan from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in lower Manhattan, a district known for prosecuting major financial fraud and high-profile crimes such as the case against accused sex trafficker and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. 

Many of the cases follow a cookie-cutter pattern involving some combination of trespassing and disorderly conduct charges as well as “Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building.”

Former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman told The Daily Wire “This is beyond aggressive, and it’s also one-size-fits-all.”

“There seems to be no careful analysis of the individual criminal intent or lack thereof, and that’s what a prosecutor’s first line of scrutiny and judgment is supposed to be considering,” Tolman said.

The external prosecutors hail from Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Albuquerque, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and U.S. territory Puerto Rico.

In some of those cases, prosecutors from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office are also assigned to the same cases.

Hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump stunned the nation when they forced their way into the Capitol building just as a joint session of Congress convened to certify the results of the presidential election. So far, at least 500 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot. The defendants range in age from 18 to 70, the vast majority of them men.

Then-acting Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said in January that the cases had overwhelmed the office.

“The scope and scale of this investigation and these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history, but probably DOJ history,” he said less than a week after the chaos in the nation’s capital.

Channing Phillips, who previously held the role during the Barack Obama administration, now oversees the office. 

There does not appear to be a correlation between the severity of the charges and how many prosecutors are assigned to a specific case. Some cases that involve only misdemeanor charges have more than one prosecutor assigned to them, while in other cases involving felony charges, one prosecutor from outside Washington, D.C. is the sole lawyer taking on the case.

In one case, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico was assigned to craft the case against an Albany man accused of assaulting a police officer during riot, and public defenders from Puerto Rico were assigned to defend the man.

The prosecutor from Puerto Rico, Sean Patrick Murphy, is prosecuting at least eight defendants. One Los Angeles prosecutor, Hava Arin Levenson Mirell, is prosecuting a dozen defendants. Florida prosecutor Robert Craig Juman is prosecuting 10. 

Along with many of the other outside prosecutors, Kearney, the New York assistant U.S. attorney, regularly prosecutes high-level white collar crime such as wire fraud. Missouri Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony L. Franks, who is prosecuting at least four defendants, says on his LinkedIn profile that he works on “investigation and prosecution of white-collar crime and financial fraud.”

The number of prosecutors who have been sucked into prosecuting the hundreds of Capitol riot defendants has also thinned out resources for other federal priorities such as cases involving fentanyl distribution.

Some prosecutors who have been assigned to Capitol riot cases are also working on cases involving the distribution of fentanyl, which has reached critical levels in places like San Francisco.

Kansas prosecutor Mona Furst, who is prosecuting at least six defendants, also worked on a major meth trafficking case last year. 

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