DOJ Told Court to Expect a Deluge of New Jan. 6 Prosecutions


WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 additional people could still face charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a letter to the D.C. federal court from the U.S. attorney in Washington.

The one-page letter, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News, was sent late last year to the chief judge and hasn’t been previously reported. It offers details on what Attorney General Merrick Garland has called “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.” 

The Oct. 28 letter from U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, which came as the department neared its 900th arrest, estimated an additional 700 to 1,200 defendants. That could roughly double the number of cases filed so far – with this month marking the 1,000th arrest, according to statistics from the U.S. attorney’s office. 

The more than 1,000 people already charged have clogged the court’s docket over the past two years. And prosecutors continue to bring new cases as Special Counsel Jack Smith pursues a separate probe into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to undermine the 2020 election results.

Graves warned Howell in the letter that it was “incredibly difficult” to predict future cases given the “nature and the complexity of the investigation.” He wrote that he didn’t know how many of the new cases would involve misdemeanor versus felony charges, but he expected a higher percentage of felonies.

“We expect the pace of bringing new cases will increase, in an orderly fashion, over the course of the next few months,” Graves wrote. He ended the letter by saying that the estimates could change as the office continues to monitor charging statistics and “evaluate changing resources and circumstances.”

Patricia Hartman, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office, said any comment on Jan. 6 cases would only be made through official filings.

In a statement, Howell said that the court “continues to manage its caseload and trial calendar efficiently, notwithstanding the delays occasioned by the pandemic.” Howell’s term as chief judge ends this week, when Judge James Boasberg will step into the role.

“So far, the court has been able to manage the increased criminal caseload well,” Howell said. “Should a ‘surge’ of filings occur at a later date, the Court would assess what additional steps, if any, it should take.” 

More than 500 people have pleaded guilty and more than 50 have been convicted at trial, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. High-profile wins for the government include convictions in the seditious conspiracy case against members of the Oath Keepers extremist group.

Graves’ estimate squares with previous comments by government lawyers in court that between 2,000 to 2,500 people went into the Capitol. NBC News recently reported that online sleuths have put the number of potential defendants – people accused of going inside, assaulting police or destroying property – closer to 3,000. 

The caseload spike over the past two years has strained resources in the U.S. attorney’s office and the federal public defender’s office, and created logistical and security challenges for the court. 

One judge told parties earlier this year that he regretted retiring midway through their case but at 85 years old, he couldn’t stay for “the next 1,000 Jan. 6 cases DOJ has promised,” according to WUSA9.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s recent airing of Capitol surveillance footage has prompted calls among some defendants and conservative commentators for judges to review cases, another potential source of delay. The government has said the overwhelming majority of footage was already provided to all defendants and the limited clips Carlson showed didn’t exonerate anyone.