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Saturday, 31 July 2021

Few plea bargains in U.S. Capitol riot cases

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Few plea bargains in U.S. Capitol riot cases
Few plea bargains in U.S. Capitol riot cases

Just one of hundreds of defendants charged in connection with the deadly attack by supporters of Donald Trump on the U.S. Capitol has so far pled guilty.This report produced by Zachary Goelman.

It's been four months since supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump violently stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election.

And a massive federal investigation has so far charged more than 440 people with an array of crimes related to the attack that left five dead.

But of those charged, only one - Jon Schaffer, an Indiana rock guitarist and founding member of a far-right militia - has so far pled guilty.

Legal experts say this could reflect a hard line by the Justice Department, setting tough conditions and sending a message about how seriously they take these cases.

But lawyers for more than a dozen defendants said that at present, they are holding firm against prosecutors' demands their clients turn over potentially incriminating social media data, cell phones and other evidence.

Without plea deals, hundreds of separate and time-consuming trials will move forward.

And without evidence provided under plea bargains, prosecutors may have a harder time building cases against those they suspect to be organizers of the violence.

On January 6 hundreds of Trump supporters stormed into Congress after the ex-president gave a fiery speech falsely claiming the election had been stolen from him.

The mob smashed windows, fought with police and sent lawmakers into hiding.

Many participants recorded their own actions on mobile phones and social media, making it relatively easy for law enforcement to make hundreds of arrests.

The charges ranged from disorderly conduct to assaulting officers and conspiracy.

The most serious charges so far are leveled against leaders of two far right militia groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

As criminal cases proceed, Congress is considering its own inquiry.

A bipartisan bill to create a national commission to investigate the riot cleared the House of Representatives this week, despite significant Republican opposition.

Its fate now moves to the Senate, where the outcome is far from clear.