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Rare Sedition Charges Are On the Table

Prosecutors say rioters planned to 'capture and assassinate elected officials'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2021 11:35 AM CST

(Newser) – The acting US attorney for DC says Capitol rioters could face charges under a Civil War-era sedition law. The law was last used in 1995, when 10 Islamic militants were convicted of seditious conspiracy—a crime involving forceful opposition to government authority or seizure of government property—stemming from a plot to bomb New York landmarks, including the United Nations and FBI building. "Conspiracy was a layup because of the nature of the terrorist cell we were targeting," Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who secured the convictions, tells the AP. He says it's logical that sedition charges would be brought in "an organized armed assault on the Capitol," particularly one seeking to block the certification of electoral votes. But if they are, prosecutors will need to prove participants conspired to use force, McCarthy says.

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In September, Jeffrey Rosen, now acting US Attorney General, suggested "rioters" taking part in racial injustice protests could be charged under the law, which was enacted to arrest those who might continue to fight the US government after the Civil War. He said proof of a plot to overthrow the government wasn't necessary. But federal prosecutors on Thursday did mention a "violent insurrection that attempted to overthrow the United States Government" in the case against Jacob Anthony Chansley, aka "Q Shaman" and Jacob Angeli, per Politico. Michael Sherwin, acting US attorney for DC, says he's ordered prosecutors "to build seditious and conspiracy charges related to the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol," per NPR. “Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors wrote, reports Reuters. (Read more U.S. Capitol stories.)

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