Sedition Could Be a Risky Charge by DOJ for January Riot

Sedition Could Be a Risky Charge by DOJ for January Riot

( – On January 6, the scene on Capitol Hill felt surreal as Congress prepared to certify the 2020 Electoral College election results. In the wake of the election, there was a lot of pent-up energy as anger openly spilled into the Capitol building to disrupt the legal certification process illegally. Not only was there destruction to the building, but five people were killed, and dozens more were injured.

Since that time, law enforcement has charged 300 people, and they expect to file many more charges in the days, weeks, and months ahead. However, there is debate about how to charge rioters and with what specific crimes. In the days after the horrific event, Democrats called the rioters seditionists and insurrectionists. Prosecutors are now deciding whether they will file sedition charges or other law violations. If they do file sedition charges, it could create several risks.

What Are the Risks?

According to 18 U.S. Code Section 2384, sedition isn’t only about attempting to overthrow the government. It also applies when force is used to “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

It seems obvious that sedition could apply. However, there are concerns about whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) would pursue the charge. For one, there are civil liberty concerns. Could investigators use the Patriot Act to collect information about what websites people visited without getting a warrant to support that someone likely engaged in illegal activity? What about bank records, hospital records, gun purchase records, and information from other institutions. In essence, could investigators turn innocent people into suspects based on circumstantial evidence obtained without a warrant?

Then there’s the issue that it could appear the Biden DOJ is targeting supporters of former President Donald Trump, who could run again in 2024.

Who’s Responsible for January 6 – Trump, Trump Supporters, Militia Groups or Others?

Ultimately, sedition charges come down to who’s responsible for the riot. Prosecutors may need to prove that organizers planned and coordinated the riot. If they determine extremist groups largely drove it, and prosecutors file sedition charges against militia groups, it could create two chilling effects:

First, it could fuel the fires of suspicion that the government is attacking militia groups with no involvement in the riot. Instead of deterring and quelling extremism, the government could unintentionally foster it.

Second, if extremists groups pre-planned the riot, it might undercut the Democrats’ narrative that Trump was responsible for the violence. That dissonance might spark outrage among Trump supporters who already feel slighted by Democrats’ treatment of the former president during his presidency.

In any case, filing sedition charges could be toxic.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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