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Justice Dept. Starts to Seek Plea Deals in Capitol Riot Cases

  • May 07, 2021

According to court filings, at least one other Capitol defendant — Douglas Jensen, a QAnon believer who was among the first to break into the building — is in formal discussions with the government about a plea deal with a deadline to be completed next month.

While prosecutors may be having informal conversations with other lawyers and their clients, A.J. Kramer, the chief of Washington’s federal defenders’ office, which is representing dozens of defendants, said that no one on his staff had received a written offer from the government.

Still, discussions about the offers — who might get them and how much they might be — are rampant among the few dozen Capitol Hill defendants being housed together on pretrial detention in the same unit of the District of Columbia jail, said one lawyer who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to betray his clients’ confidence.

The jailed defendants — who are mostly those in extremist groups or who have been accused of attacking the police — have been trading legal tips with one another, the lawyer said. Some, he said, have been considering a protest plan to fire their private lawyers and try to get the federal defenders’ office to represent them, thus ensuring that the government would have to pay for their defense.

To Mr. Hunter, all of this indicates how difficult it has been to prosecute more than 400 people essentially at once. While plea deals are the best, or perhaps the only, way the system can function without overloading, the process has not been easy.

“Everyone is trying hard,” Mr. Hunter said, “but we’re pretty much making it up as we go along.”

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