Ad hoc extremist groups come into focus in post-January 6 criminal charges
July 21, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
When officers arrested Robert Morss of Pennsylvania on charges related to the January 6 Capitol riot, they found in his car a notebook with a page titled, "Step by Step to Create Hometown Militia."
In the Morss case and others, the Justice Department repeatedly has documented the emergence of what could be called small, right-wing extremist groups.
Since January, prosecutors have alleged that several people who are charged with participating in the insurrection or with planning politically motivated violence also showed interest in organizing others, according to an extensive review of Capitol riot and other Justice Department cases by CNN.
The cases are so distinct in the thoroughness of the initial allegations and the depth of the investigative work so far, that they have become in some ways their own class of cases among the Capitol riot investigation, which so far has resulted in more than 500 criminal defendants in federal court in Washington, DC.
One commented over an encrypted messaging thread, where the two discussed planning, that he realized they would be perceived as domestic terrorists, and the second man had previously joined an anti-government militia group, according to court documents.
The cases involving these ad hoc groups include neighbors, online acquaintances, road-trippers, even a "Bible study" that also discussed secession and combat training after January 6, according to court records.
The defendants at times crossed paths with named, known organizations such as the Three Percenters, but they stand apart from the cases against members of more established, structured groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, which are being prosecuted in several major conspiracy cases in the Capitol riot investigation.
But this group of cases -- identifying freelance individuals meeting others and interested in acting like militias -- is zeroing in on the far right's version of terrorist cells, Lewis said.
Last week, prosecutors took a major step forward in another Capitol riot case -- what independent journalist Marcy Wheeler dubbed a "disorganized militia" -- when they secured the plea deal and cooperation of Idahoan Josiah Colt.
In a new arrest this month in another case, prosecutors revealed how a Northern Virginia man told an undercover FBI agent after January 6 about how his group could build ties to others.
In court, in the Capitol riot investigation, major conspiracy cases that allege planning and premeditation before the insurrection are some of the most serious.
In the case against Fi Duong of Northern Virginia, made public on July 6, undercover FBI agents kept tabs on Duong and acquaintances after January 6 as they allegedly discussed secession from the US, surveilling the US Capitol and testing homemade bombs in a group that also discussed Scripture.
One major conspiracy case of a group of ad hoc armed extremists has already landed, in the arrest of six men from Orange County, California, in June, after the FBI raided the homes of two higher-profile right-wing figures months earlier.
But the storming of the Capitol on January 6 was not the end of the risk these groups pose, according to repeated Justice Department arguments in Capitol riot cases.