U.S. prosecutors offering plea deals to allegedly violent Jan. 6 defendants

© Reuters. The U.S. Capitol is seen through barbed wire on a security fence after the Senate voted to acquit former U.S. President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, in Washington, U.S. February 13, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott/Files

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors are offering plea deals to a group of six people accused of forming a “shield wall” of stolen police equipment as they battled officers in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, a federal prosecutor said on Thursday.

At a status hearing for six defendants facing felony riot charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Jackson told U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden that prosecutors had already made plea offers to some of the defendants and that all defendants would receive offers by later on Thursday.

Prosecutors allege in court documents the accused rioters used police riot shields and batons to attack uniformed officers guarding the Capitol and that crowd members could also be “overheard planning and implementing a rotation of rioters to have the ‘fresh’ rioters up front” to form a “shield wall” to stop police from using pepper spray.

One of the defendants, Christopher Quaglin, is accused of spraying police with chemical irritant. Court records indicate Quaglin and two other related defendants remain in pre-trial detention.

The plea deals advanced to the group are the latest which prosecutors have made to a growing number of defendants facing charges related to the Jan. 6 riots. More than 535 people have been charged with taking part in the violence, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s election victory.

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Trump falsely claims he lost the election because of widespread electoral fraud.

Prosecutors have confirmed plea discussions with 12 riot defendants linked to the far-right Oath Keeper movement, at least four of whom entered guilty pleas.

A law enforcement official said at least 28 guilty pleas had already been entered.

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