WASHINGTON — More than 300 different defendants are facing criminal charges for taking part in the Capitol riot. Now, for the first time, federal prosecutors are publicly acknowledging they will look to strike plea bargains and avoid trail with some of the accused.
A plea bargain is an agreement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping or reducing charges or recommending a lighter sentence to the judge.
On Thursday, during the arraignment for Capitol riot suspect Couy Griffin, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jason Feldman offered the first concrete evidence plea deals are coming for certain Capitol riot defendants.
“We’ve been told that we will reach a point in these Capitol riot cases that we will able to offer pleas in appropriate cases,” Feldman told U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden.
Feldman was responding to a comment from Griffin’s attorney, David Smith, that they had asked prosecutors for a plea deal but haven’t been offered one yet. Griffin pleaded not guilty to two criminal charges: knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry and disorderly conduct.
Images entered as evidence in the case never show Griffin inside the Capitol, only on the steps.
Feldman told McFadden no Capitol riot suspects have been offered plea bargains so far – something which has been stated in arraignment hearings for other Capitol riot cases.
But to date, federal prosecutors had not indicated whether plea bargain offers would be coming for any January 6 defendants.
WUSA9 emailed Shelia Miller, spokesperson for the D.C. U.S. attorney's office to ask how many plea deals the government expects to offer and under what circumstances.
Miller has not responded to those questions. But it’s likely prosecutors will view the trespassing and disorderly conduct charges against Griffin differently than those facing two alleged members of the Oath Keepers militia who were also arraigned Thursday.
Donovan Crowl and Graydon Young pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to multiple felony counts, including conspiracy. They are part of a group of nine Oath Keepers charged as a group for allegedly planning and organizing an attack on the Capitol weeks before the insurrection.
They are alleged to be seen in a photo grouped in a military formation as they pushed through the angry mob inside the US Capitol. Prosecutors said they called it a “strike force”
So, the question remains, will the U.S. attorney’s office be offering plea deals to those defendants facing the most serious charges? Or just in the lesser cases? WUSA9 will be tracking developments every day to find out.