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Jan. 6 one year later: Fact-checking three claims about the insurrection

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The VERIFY team investigated three claims from that day.

On Jan. 6, 2021, hundreds of protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. during the 2020 Electoral College vote count. The protesters claimed President Joe Biden illegally won the election and former President Donald Trump actually won.

The violent attack threatened the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 Presidential election, injured over 100 law enforcement officers, and resulted in more than $1 million dollars’ worth of property damage. 

In the year since the insurrection, misinformation has continued to spread online. Here are three of the top VERIFY audience questions about the insurrection. 

Editor’s note: This article contains graphic content.

QUESTION #1 

Was the Jan. 6 insurrection a "completely unarmed protest"?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the insurrection was not a completely unarmed protest. Several individuals involved in the mob were charged or sentenced for crimes involving a weapon. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The U.S. Department of Justice has been tracking individuals charged with federal crimes stemming from events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. This list doesn’t include anyone charged with crimes by a local jurisdiction.

According to DOJ records, more than 200 people have now been arrested and charged with assaulting police on Jan. 6, 2021. Some protesters did have guns - that includes Lonnie Coffman, who pleaded guilty to driving his pickup to the Capitol while in possession of several loaded guns, ammunition, a crossbow, machetes and jars filled with ingredients for molotov cocktails.

Prosecutors say weapons don’t necessarily only mean firearms. An array of makeshift weapons were used in the melee, including crutches, flagpoles and stolen police batons, records say.

The FBI still has a flier on their website calling for the public’s assistance in finding an individual accused of planting pipe bombs across the city the night before the riot. 

Credit: FBI

VERIFY searched through court records for several individuals that were sentenced or charged with assault for using some type of weapon. To date, Robert Scott Palmer was served the harshest sentence of the protesters charged. Palmer was witnessed throwing a fire extinguisher at officers and was sentenced to five years in prison for charges that included assault on a police officer.

QUESTION #2 

Are most people convicted of felony charges in the Jan. 6 insurrection?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, according to court records, most people have been convicted on misdemeanor charges in connection to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

WHAT WE FOUND

More than 700 people have been charged for their role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and over 170 of them have pleaded guilty to various charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and federal court filings. 

Many of those charged have been charged with felonies, but so far, those convicted of crimes committed on Jan. 6 are mostly convicted of misdemeanors. 

Once someone is arrested, the charges against them can change as their case makes its way through the courts. For example, an alleged suspect could make a plea deal upon sentencing that would lessen the charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence. 

Dozens of individuals at the Capitol face many charges, including parading or demonstrating at the Capitol. That is a Class “B” misdemeanor, which could carry a six-month maximum jail sentence

Court records show most of those convicted to-date have pleaded guilty to that charge.

Only seven people have been convicted of felonies as of Jan. 5, 2022. 

So, we can VERIFY most people charged in the Jan. 6 riot have not been convicted on felony charges. 

QUESTION #3 

Can convicted felons from the insurrection still vote?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, some people convicted of felonies from the Jan. 6 insurrection can still vote, but it depends on what state they live in.

WHAT WE FOUND

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates nearly 6 million Americans have lost their right to vote because of a criminal conviction.

The right to vote is overseen by both federal and state governments. But only some states have rules restricting felons from the ballot box. So, where a person lives ultimately dictates whether their right to vote will be revoked because of a felony conviction.

Maine, Vermont and the District of Columbia do not take away the voting rights of felons, even while they are incarcerated, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Each jurisdiction confirms felons can vote even while incarcerated (Maine here, Vermont here and District of Columbia here). Puerto Rico residents also have no voting restrictions based on criminal convictions, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog group.

All other 48 states in the U.S. disenfranchise at least some people convicted of felonies while they are in prison.

But the disqualification to vote doesn’t necessarily extend to when a person is released from prison. The NCSL says 37 states restore the voting rights of people convicted of felonies once they are released from prison or after they served their full sentences, including parole and probation.

In the other 11 states, there are more requirements that need to be met before people convicted of felonies can vote again, according to the NCSL. Some states have an additional waiting period after sentence completion and others require additional action, such as a governor’s pardon.

WUSA’s Jordan Fischer contributed to this report.

More from VERIFY: Debunking voter fraud claims that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection

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