Capitol rioters may not be charged by DOJ

The Justice Department has already charged more than 135 individuals

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Federal law enforcement officials are trying to decide whether they should forego charging some of the rioters that stormed the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6. They’re concerned that the hundreds of cases could swamp the courthouse, The Washington Post reported.

Justice Department officials have promised the public that they will leave no stone unturned in their effort to identify and arrest the individuals who illegally entered the Capitol that day, but behind closed doors, the officials are heartily debating whether charging them all is the best course of action.

Read More: Almost 1 in 5 people charged for Capitol riots served in military

Federal officials estimate that roughly 800 people poured into the building, and among them were a mix of behaviors that included people dressed for military battle, people moving in formation, people committing reckless vandalism, and people simply going with the flow of the crowd into the building.

According to WaPo, some officials have privately argued that those who are known to have only committed unlawful entry, should not be charged. But other agents and prosecutors don’t agree and maintain that in order to discourage similar conduct in the future, it is important to send a forceful message that the violence and mayhem on display Jan. 6 will be punished to the full extent of the law.

The Justice Department has already charged more than 135 individuals with committing crimes in and around the Capitol, and many more are expected to be charged in the coming weeks and months, per WaPo.

Read More: 275 criminal cases opened in Capitol riots investigation: prosecutors

“There is absolute resolve from the Department of Justice to hold all who intentionally engaged in criminal acts at the Capitol accountable,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in an email.

“We have consistently made clear that we will follow the facts and evidence and charge individuals accordingly. We remain confident that the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. can appropriately handle the docket relating to any resulting charges,” he continued.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers for some of those already charged are contemplating a “Trump defense,” stating that the former president gave them permission or invited them to commit an otherwise illegal act.

Prosecutors are concerned that such a defense might be effective at trial.

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