Former U.S. attorney: 'Many, many federal crimes' in descent on Capitol Hill

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 21:22:18-05

CINCINNATI — The FBI indicated Thursday the agency is actively investigating and working to bring federal charges against those involved in Wednesday's violence on Capitol Hill. As of this afternoon, Capitol Police had arrested 14 individuals on various federal charges, but more could be coming.

While none of those arrested so far were from the Tri-State area, the Southern District of Ohio's U.S. attorney, David DeVillers, said Thursday that he would prosecute anyone from the region believed to have participated in any illegal activity at the Capitol.

"Make no mistake... Federal crimes were committed today at our nation's (Capitol) building. Anyone who traveled from the Southern District of Ohio with the intent to commit such crimes will be prosecuted in the Southern District of Ohio," DeVillers tweeted late Wednesday afternoon.

When former U.S. attorney for the district Ben Glassman and former assistant U.S. attorney for the district Patrick Hanley each watched as a crowd of President Donald Trump's supporters descended upon and forced their way into the Capitol, they agreed a broad range of federal crimes probably occurred.

"What I saw, what everyone saw, was a group of people, or a mob of people, approach and in fact take over the Capitol," Hanley said.

"I saw people storming the United States Capitol," Glassman said. "I saw people attacking the United States."

From trespassing on federal government property to destruction of that property, assaulting a federal officer, abetting terrorism or conspiracy to engage in insurrection or rebellion, Glassman said, "I saw reason to believe there were many, many federal crimes... I think there is reason to investigate a wide range of criminal conduct arising out of yesterday's activities."

Glassman called these "very serious" crimes that, if bringing a conviction, could result in decades in federal prison, and Hanley said, "there's no question there's going to be prosecution resulting from that activity."

But with only 14 arrests made at the Capitol, Glassman said, finding and prosecuting the others not apprehended by police will be that much more difficult.

"From where I stand, I have no idea why every person who was on the grounds of the Capitol was not arrested," Glassman said. "In addition to having to prove the elements of a crime, you also have to figure out who were the perpetrators, identify them and then find out where they are."

Adding another complication, a day later, it remained unclear who would investigate and pursue charges in these cases: U.S. attorneys in Washington or in the local jurisdictions where the suspects live.

"We don't know how many people are going to be identified by videotape, whether the U.S. attorney in Washington is going to be interested or maybe U.S. attorneys from whatever locale these people traveled from to go to Washington," Hanley said.

Hanley went on to explain that, while these crimes would likely be prosecuted in Washington, D.C., some charges could be filed in Cincinnati if there's proof the person left the region with intent to commit a crime.

"If you've got someone who leaves Ohio and goes to Washington, it's not going to be difficult in all likelihood to show they were intent on disturbing the activities of the government on the Capitol," Hanley said.

Despite the challenges, both agreed prosecutions must move forward, they said, for the sake of the nation.

"Part of the reason to investigate and prosecute people is to punish them, to show that the offenses are serious, and are to deter these things from happening in the future," Glassman said.