Capitol Rioter Trials Pushed Back due to Video Evidence
By Alexander Gu
The trials of more than 500 capitol rioters are getting delayed due to enormous amounts of video evidence. This delay is due to U.S. prosecutors combing through the mountain of records that can help defendants to decide whether to plead guilty or face trial.
Half a year after the riot, large amounts of evidence were handed over by the government, which included FBI reports, search warrant results, and social media posts. While the government has also shared video data, it has not yet released a full video of the event, which would reveal whether a person had remained lawful or what those nearby were doing. As a result, 20 out of the 500 have pleaded guilty so far.
Government officials have stated that organizing the massive amount of data in what the Justice Department says is “one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history” is likely going to cost tens of millions of dollars. Journalist Spenser Hsu of the Washington Post reported that “Prosecutors say they hope to be able to turn over the bulk of 16,000 hours of Capitol and police footage to defendants beginning in August, and by fall to begin producing individually relevant returns from more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas and more than 2,000 recovered smartphones, computers and other devices.” They have also received over 300,000 public tips, many of which are concerning potential misidentifications. Further delaying the process, a federal judge ruled that grand jury secrets cannot be shared with contractors, a “practical necessity” and forcing investigators to go through cases one by one for such information. These setbacks mean that even those that are already jailed are likely to have their trials no earlier than mid-2022.
Most defendants are accepting these delays, as it is in their interest. Judges have been getting impatient as they wait for the government to dig through the data. Journalist Spenser Hsu also wrote “On Tuesday, defense attorney Stanley Woodward warned a judge that if the government planned to “dump” thousands of hours of video at once, it could “take years” for attorneys like him to review and get ready for trial.”