WASHINGTON — Aided by citizen detectives who continue to identify the Jan. 6 rioters, the Justice Department finds it has more cases than lawyers to prosecute them.
Fifteen months after a crowd stormed the Capitol in support of then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election defeat, more than 775 defendants have been arrested. More than 225 have pleaded guilty so far, and two have been convicted at trial: one by a jury and one by a judge. More than 50 were sentenced to prison.
That leaves more than 500 active cases that have yet to be resolved, either through a plea deal or a trial.
The Justice Department is asking Congress for additional funds to pursue these cases — a list that keeps growing.
And even though the Justice Department is closing in on the 800 arrest mark, there’s still an incredibly long way to go. Several online sleuths in a network of “sedition hunters” working to find Jan. 6 participants told NBC News they had successfully identified hundreds of additional Jan. 6 rioters to the FBI – including dozens who are photographed on the FBI’s Capitol Violence website.
“There are hundreds left,” said an online sleuth closely involved in the investigation, speaking anonymously to avoid retaliation from rioters’ supporters.
Some of the January 6 participants who were not arrested were successfully identified months ago using open source information publicly available on the internet – such as public records, social media and photos on the Internet.
Dumping terabytes of photos and video footage from January 6, citizen investigators were able to identify hundreds of participants in the Capitol attack. More than 2,500 people made their way inside the Capitol, officials estimated, and more than 350 people are still listed on the FBI’s Capitol Violence website who have yet to be arrested.
“We’re maybe 30 percent into arrests, and more to come,” the detective said. “And still not all the crimes uncovered.”
Another detective who also asked to speak anonymously to detail his progress in assisting law enforcement said it was clear the FBI was “late so far” with cases still pending. expectation of action.
“Sometimes I kind of lose my faith and then they just keep hooking up,” this detective said, noting that they sometimes scratch their heads over the timing of certain arrests.
“I still can’t explain the order,” the detective said. “They’ve arrested people on less serious charges, but there are others we identified on the FBI list who committed more serious crimes who are still out there.”
The sprawling Jan. 6 investigation overwhelms the Justice Department and the FBI, according to law enforcement sources and people familiar with the investigation, as well as the DC federal courthouse, where each trial must take place.
The federal investigation also extends into legally complex areas of the law, such as seditious conspiracy, and touches on more complex topics, such as the planning of the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.
Given resource requirements, the Justice Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes an additional $34 million and 130 positions for Capitol prosecutions.
Speaking about the budget request last week, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department’s second-in-command, told reporters the Jan. 6 investigation was among the “most complex this department has ever undertaken.” “. currently spending $15 million with 68 people dedicated to the Jan. 6 prosecution effort, in addition to tapping into existing budgeted resources at the FBI and DOJ. necessary “to deal with the scale and complexity of the cases”.
The late arrests had an impact. In one case, a man who was identified to the FBI in February 2021 as a person who flashed a gun on Capitol grounds on January 6 then fatally stabbed a 19-year-old in a park in Salt Lake City.
Arrest delays can also affect cases once they are presented. In February, the FBI arrested a Trump supporter from North Carolina who was out on bail for attempted first-degree murder when he traveled to DC and stormed the Capitol. The government has decided to hold the man, Matthew Beddingfield, who was arrested more than 10 months after he was first identified, until his trial. But a federal magistrate – citing in part the length of time between January 6 and Beddingfield’s arrest in February 2022 – said he could be released before trial.
Had Beddingfield been arrested in early 2021, US Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui said, “I would be hard pressed not to detain him.” Beddingfield was eventually returned to his grandfather’s custody.
But given the overwhelming scope of the investigation, some of the average citizens who helped the Jan. 6 inquiry said they understood things could take much longer than they had hoped.
“The scope of the investigation is so broad that even 15 months later, expecting the government to move so that all the cases have already been presented, is simply unrealistic,” said a third detective. involved in the investigation. “As long as justice continues to be served, even if it’s slower than I would like, I’m okay. As long as I see them arresting people, finalizing cases, and pushing plea deals to where it makes sense, I’m okay with that.