More than 70 Texans have been charged in connection with the 2021 U.S. Capitol riots
Houston Public Media's Lucio Vasquez provides an update on all of the Texans who've been charged and prosecuted so far in connection with the insurrection attempt.
A North Texas resident pleaded guilty to obstruction this week after prosecutors said he stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, rifled through a lawmaker's documents in the Senate chambers and took video selfies with a senator's cell phone.
Joshua Johnson, of Sherman, is among nearly 1,000 people arrested nationwide, with Texas having among the highest concentration of residents charged over the capitol breach.
Lucio Vasquez has been following these cases for Houston Public Media. He spoke with KERA's Justin Martin.
The below interview has been edited for length and clarity:
Generally speaking, what kinds of charges are some of these people facing? What stands out?
Most, if not all, were charged with obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, and disorderly or disruptive conduct in restricted building or grounds. This is kind of across the board with these charges, simply because they were trespassing on federal property. Some of the most egregious charges are related to those who allegedly assaulted police and damaged federal property. About 29 Texans were accused of some kind of violence or assault that day.
Here we are two years later after the insurrection attempt. Has much happened to the people involved?
It's honestly been relatively slow moving. Out of the 74 people who have been charged in Texas, at least eight have been convicted so far. About 41 Texans have pleaded guilty to at least one or more charges, and 26 have pleaded not guilty. Only one case has been dismissed so far, and that was after an Austin man died in a motorcycle crash about two years ago.
For those convicted, though, about three were hit with multi-year long prison sentences, while others have only spent a few months in jail. A handful are still waiting for their day in court to be sentenced. Just to put this in perspective, as you said, nearly 1,000 people have been charged over the last two years across the entire country, but if you've seen those videos from that day, you can tell that there's clearly more than 1,000 people. And also the frequency in which people have been hit with charges has also dropped significantly over time. The most recent Texan to be charged was a man from El Paso in I believe in October.
Did any of the people charged talk about why they were at the Capitol? Was there a common thread?
Yeah, many told investigators that they were simply following the herd as they made their way to the Capitol building. This is, of course, after President Donald Trump had a rally nearby and kind of emboldened the crowd to make that journey. The throughline among most of these people is that they disagreed with the result of the 2020 election and wanted to make their voices heard. A majority of these people also posted on social media during and after the attack, with some even livestreaming their journey through the Capitol building. These posts eventually helped the FBI identify and eventually arrest these individuals. Out of at least 74 Texans arrested, about 11 of those were found to be having ties to extremist groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, etc. Many of these people were also connected to QAnon and about 14 or so had ties to military and law enforcement.
Is there anything you think people should know about the insurrection attempt or what happened afterwards?
Well, I think it's important to realize that a lot of these people had, or at least they've said that they've had sort of a hive mind mentality — or maybe a herd mentality would be more accurate — to where they saw the large group going towards the Capitol. So then they assumed that it would be okay to join that group. They saw a large group enter the Capitol, so they had assumed that it would be okay to enter the Capitol, right? So these are individuals who, I suppose, didn't fully think about the repercussions of their actions, right? A few of them told investigators that they expected to be arrested, but a large majority of the court documents that I read, most were surprised whenever they were being called by the FBI and talking with the FBI and arrested by the FBI. And so a lot of these individuals kind of, I guess, got swept in the moment and didn't fully think about the repercussions of, say, posting a photo while trespassing in the Capitol building. And so I think it's important to realize just how powerful this kind of rhetoric can be whenever you have an emboldened group of people.