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DOJ issues ‘urgent’ plea to federal prosecutors across the US to help with Capitol riot cases

The Justice Department has issued an ‘urgent plea’ for help from prosecutors across the United States amid ‘a significant influx of cases’ following the Capitol riot. 

In an internal email seen by ABC an official wrote: ‘The (office) has an urgent need for assistance with prosecuting hundreds of criminal cases.

‘Based on the importance and immediacy of the need, we ask each United States Attorney to consider whether he or she can offer critical assistance to the (office in Washington).’ 

The U.S. attorney’s office in Washington has so far taken on every case. The acting U.S. attorney in Washington, Michael Sherwin said: ‘The cases are all being charged here in D.C.’

The Justice Department has issued an ‘urgent plea’ for help from prosecutors across the United States amid ‘a significant influx of cases’ following the Capitol riot, pictured

The email, sent last week, said anyone volunteering to help ‘may serve from their home districts or in the District of Columbia’ in a reassignment that could last nine months.  

More than 170 people have been charged in connection with the January 6 Capitol attack involving suspects from all over the country; the feds have identified at least 400 people they say may have committed crimes at the siege.  

One former official, who said: ‘There’s a clear resource issue, and the fact that the D.C. office has to have prosecutors come in from outside to prosecute these cases magnifies this point.

‘The importance of some of these cases is going to be lost when you’re bringing hundreds of them.’  

The DOJ is also said to be considering whether to charge those involved in the deadly storming under a federal law usually used against organized crime. 

Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, prosecutors can combat certain ongoing racketeering crimes such as murder, kidnapping, bribery and money laundering. 

The 1970 statute provides for hefty criminal penalties including up to 20 years in prison and seizure of assets obtained illegally through a criminal enterprise. 

The email, sent last week, said anyone volunteering to help 'may serve from their home districts or in the District of Columbia' in a reassignment that could last nine months. U.S. Capitol Police with guns drawn watch as rioters try to break into the House Chamber

The email, sent last week, said anyone volunteering to help ‘may serve from their home districts or in the District of Columbia’ in a reassignment that could last nine months. U.S. Capitol Police with guns drawn watch as rioters try to break into the House Chamber

The siege by supporters of former President Donald Trump left five dead including a police officer. It is not yet clear if cases arising from it meet ‘statutory elements’ necessary for a RICO charge, the former federal official said. 

Prosecutors in a RICO case would need to show that the far-right groups qualify as a ‘criminal enterprise’ and that members of the enterprise engaged in a pattern of two or more related crimes beyond the Capitol riots.  

US attorneys around the country had pledged to prosecute rioters under their authority. 

Peter McCoy, the US attorney in South Carolina, was one of many to pledge: ‘Let me be perfectly clear. 

‘Anyone who traveled from the District of South Carolina with intent to aid this travesty or commit acts of destruction will be prosecuted by (my office).’ 

But the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington has so far taken on every case. 

The acting U.S. attorney in Washington, Michael Sherwin said in the days following the riot: ‘The cases are all being charged here in D.C.

‘And what makes this case, in particular, unprecedented and unusual and extremely complex is the fact that after the event, obviously thousands of people went back to their home districts. And that has complicated things.’ 

'QAnon Shaman' Jacob Anthony Chansley has been charged with civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, demonstrating in a Capitol building and other counts

‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Anthony Chansley has been charged with civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, disorderly conduct in a restricted building, demonstrating in a Capitol building and other counts

Kevin Seefried, who was seen carrying the flag, was arrested in Delaware along with his son, Hunter Seefried. Prosecutors said both entered the Senate Building through a broken window before Kevin Seefried was seen carrying around the Confederate flag in photos that caught attention from news outlets and social media

Kevin Seefried, who was seen carrying the flag, was arrested in Delaware along with his son, Hunter Seefried. Prosecutors said both entered the Senate Building through a broken window before Kevin Seefried was seen carrying around the Confederate flag in photos that caught attention from news outlets and social media

Now the Justice Department has been forced to ask for help in the capital from their 93 U.S. attorneys’ offices. 

They are looking for responses by the end of this week. 

A Justice Department spokesman told ABC: ‘The Department decided to prosecute all cases stemming from the Jan. 6th siege of the capitol out of the Washington, DC, office because that is where the crimes occurred.’  

President Joe Biden’s administration has warned that domestic extremism is a growing threat following the Capitol rampage, a sharp departure from the way Trump regarded extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. 

In a September pre-election debate with Biden, Trump told the Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by.’

Trump supporters storm the Capitol Building following the 'Stop The Steal' rally where they assembled to protest the 2020 election results

Trump supporters storm the Capitol Building following the ‘Stop The Steal’ rally where they assembled to protest the 2020 election results

Justice Department spokeswoman Kristina Mastropasqua declined to comment about the potential use of the RICO statute beyond pointing to prior statements by the senior federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, that he would charge people based on what the evidence showed.

Sherwin has said a wide range of criminal charges are being contemplated, including trespassing, assault and seditious conspiracy.

The RICO law was crafted to help prosecutors convict top Mafia leaders who ordered others to commit crimes. RICO cases are complex, often take years to develop, and require approval from Justice Department leadership.

‘RICO was designed to address the Godfather – the person who doesn’t get their hands bloody,’ said Jeffrey Grell, an attorney who specializes in RICO law. ‘You would really only use RICO to go after the kingpins or the leaders.’


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