State lawmaker and man who broke into Pelosi’s office among 15 charged

WASHINGTON • A state lawmaker from West Virginia, a 70-year-old Alabamian armed with jars of petrol and a man who broke into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and posed at her desk were among those charged after the storming of the United States Capitol.

The US Justice Department announced on Friday that it has charged 15 people involved in the assault on Congress, including one man accused of possessing bombs made to act like “homemade napalm”.

But Mr Ken Kohl, a federal prosecutor with the Washington US attorney’s office, said they did not expect to charge anyone with “incitement” or “insurrection” in last Wednesday’s violence, amid calls for legal action against President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others for encouraging it.

The department unveiled the cases against 13 of the individuals, including Richard Barnett, a Trump supporter who invaded the office of Ms Pelosi; and Lonnie Coffman of Alabama, who was found carrying two handguns and had 11 styrofoam-enhanced Molotov cocktails in his truck.

Barnett, famously photographed with his feet on a desk in Ms Pelosi’s office, was charged with theft of stationery.

Also charged was Derrick Evans, a newly elected lawmaker from West Virginia. Evans posted a video on his Facebook page of himself as he stood among the crowd outside a Capitol door, shouting, “There we go! Open the door!” and chanting, “Our House! Our House!” before rushing inside.

Though he deleted the video, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found a copy on Reddit.

Most of the 13 were charged with illegal entry into restricted buildings of Congress, and violent or disorderly conduct.

They were also charged with impeding government functions after forcing the shutdown of a joint session of Congress to officially certify that Mr Joe Biden had won the Nov 3 election, which Mr Trump had until last Thursday refused to accept.

“The lawless destruction of the US Capitol building was an attack against one of our nation’s greatest institutions,” said Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin.

Mr Kohl said that not all the charges filed over last Wednesday’s violence had been unsealed, and that more were in the pipeline as the FBI investigates.

“This investigation has the highest priority,” he said, adding that “hundreds” of Justice Department investigators were working on the matter.

The number of arrests is likely to grow quickly as investigators pore over social media to identify rioters.

Around 40 people were arrested and charged by local Washington police, mostly for curfew violations, weapons offences and unlawful entry. But the charges announced by Mr Kohl on Friday were on the federal level and potentially carry heftier punishment.

Some people have called for Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani, Mr Trump’s son Donald Jr and others to be charged with incitement for openly encouraging the President’s supporters to take action just hours before the mob stormed the Capitol.

“We don’t expect any charges of that nature,” Mr Kohl said.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE