Defense lawyers warn that the January 6 criminal prosecution could extend until the 2024 election
It has been over a year since the, and none of the defendants charged in the attack have yet been tried. Although a few are expected to begin in the coming months, a Justice Department official told CBS News, defense attorneys believe some of the hundreds of trials will stretch into the 2024 presidential election.
Katie Cusick has made peace with the long wait ahead. “There is a cloud looming over our heads,” she said.
His father and brother are among hundreds of defendants on January 6 awaiting trial dates and the reopening of federal court in Washington, DC, where the US Capitol attack cases are being pursued.
“They’re frustrated with the delay and the progress,” she said.
Jim and Casey Cusick, of Melbourne, Fla., are among approximately 730 defendants in the January 6 lawsuits. Both have pleaded not guilty and are free pending trial. But their defense attorney advised the men that their cases are unlikely to be completed until at least 2023.
They are not alone. None of the defendants on January 6 have yet been tried, more than a year after the attack. Only five are expected to do so before April, a Justice Department official told CBS News.
A defense attorney, who is handling the Cusick case and the cases of a series of other defendants from January 6, told CBS News that he expects some cases to remain open until in the next presidential election in November 2024.
The Justice Department grapples with unique and profound logistical issues with its Jan. 6 cases. The DC Federal Courthouse remains closed to jury trials until at least February 7, due to COVID risks. Most hearings are taking place virtually, via Zoom and telephone connections. But trials must take place in person inside the courthouse, which is a short walk from the US Capitol.
The agency is also trying to gather an unprecedented avalanche of evidence. The US Capitol riot prosecution, which the agency has called one of the most significant criminal cases in US history, is rife with advice and possible evidence.
In a series of recent court documents, the Justice Department said there were 14,000 hours of Capitol Hill surveillance video, 250 terabytes of data and more than 200,000 tips from the public. Along with a growing collection of social media posts, phone videos and witness interviews, federal prosecutors are trying to manage and organize a growing tower of evidence and documents.
This week, the agency advised a judge that there was still “work to be done” in preparing evidence for the court, defense attorneys, defendants and trial.
“This investigation has generated an enormous amount of evidence,” the Justice Department said in a court filing Thursday, as part of its request for an extension of time in the case of a New Jersey defendant.
Judges set some trial dates, including in high-profile cases against defendants. Some of these trials are due to begin in April, while others are expected in July and September. Later dates include defendants charged with seditious conspiracy, some of whom are in pre-trial detention.
CBS News has learned that about 40 defendants in the Jan. 6 cases are on remand in the Washington, DC jail, some of whom have spent nearly a year behind bars with no firm trial dates. The judges said cases involving remand defendants should be prioritized for earlier trial dates.
Katie Cusick said her family agrees that her father and brother’s case and trial date should wait until the jailed higher-level defendants have a chance to face a jury. “They have a lot worse than us,” she said.
The defendants aren’t the only ones looking forward to their day in court. US Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn, who stood up to physical assaults and racial slurs while helping his colleagues defend the Capitol on January 6, is expected to be a witness in trials involving some of the high-profile defendants.
Dunn told CBS News his fellow officers are eager to see justice served, but they understand the reason for the mounting delays. “It’s worth the wait,” Dunn said. “You have to be patient.”
A CBS News review of the DC federal court filing revealed Guy Reffitt of Texas will be the first to stand trial. Reffitt pleaded not guilty to a series of federal charges. He is accused of carrying a firearm in the middle of a crowd clashing with police on January 6. The trial is due to begin February 28 at 9 a.m., if the court does not extend its closure to most in-person operations, including juries, beyond February. seven.