(WASHINGTON) — Nearly four months into the investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection — and following more than 440 arrests — prosecutors are ramping up efforts to engage in plea discussions with many of those accused of joining in the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Plea offers could start going out to some accused rioters as soon as “the next couple of days,” prosecutors said during a court hearing Wednesday, with more likely going out next month as trial dates approach for many of those who have been charged so far.
The update comes after an assistant U.S attorney on Tuesday said that prosecutors had officially been authorized by their superiors to start offering plea deals more broadly, marking a significant turning point in the government’s investigation.
“In terms of the plea offer, we are authorized to be extending offers at this point,” Janani Iyengar, a prosecutor in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, said during a hearing in the case against Couy Griffin, a New Mexico elected official and founder of the group “Cowboys for Trump.”
“I have put into my supervisor Mr. Griffin’s case and information related to the case to get authorization on a plea offer for him,” Iyengar said.
It is not clear what the plea offer would entail, or if Griffin would accept the offer. Addressing the court, Griffin briefly spoke out against a recall effort currently underway against him.
“It may be easier for some, but it’s not easy for me,” Griffin told the judge regarding the fallout from the case. “It’s daily an attack. It’s daily a character assassination on who I am.”
Plea discussions are also underway with attorneys for Richard “Bigo” Barnett, the accused rioter who posed for a photograph with his feet on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk and allegedly stole a piece of her mail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Dohrmann said during a separate court hearing. No formal offer has been given yet, she said.
Barnett, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, was ordered released from jail and into home detention on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, a self-described member of the Oath Keepers militia group became the first Capitol rioter to plead guilty to the charges against him and enter into a plea agreement with the government. That agreement requires the man, Jon Schaffer, to fully cooperate with the government.
Yet not all cases are expected to end in deals. The attorney for Jacob Chansley, the accused rioter seen wearing a horn helmet and fur vest inside the Capitol, told ABC News on Wednesday that he is “prepared to proceed with trial.”
“Early on the government was prepared to drill down on every defendant,” Al Watkins, Chansley’s attorney, told ABC News. “[Then] they were able to realize these people were not all bad people. They were not all insurrectionists or trying to overthrow the government. The more the government learns, the better it is for people like my client.”
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