PROSECUTING RIOTS: District attorney explains differences among crimes that may have occurred

Aundie Fehl | Courtesy Photo

District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp kept busy Wednesday morning while at his office in Wagoner.

District Attorney Jack Thorp said a variety of charges could be leveled against individuals who rioted at the U.S. Capitol last week or committed similar violent acts.

Thorp said criminal charges for rioting are generally covered under Oklahoma Statute 21 OS 1312.

“If a crime such as murder, maiming, robbery, or rape occur in the course of a riot, the individual could face punishment up to life in prison,” said Thorp. “If the riot is intended to thwart the execution of lawful legal process by the state of Oklahoma or the United States of America, punishment is two to 10 years.”

Thorp explained carrying firearms and/or dangerous weapons into the Capitol can also have a range of punishment of two to 10 years in prison.

“If force or violence, without weapons, is used, the range is two to 20 years in prison. In all other cases, it is a misdemeanor,” he said.

An "unlawful assembly" may be punished as a misdemeanor for three or fewer people. However, it is a felony punishable up to five years in prison if the assembly includes four or more people. And inciting a riot is a felony that carries up to 10 years behind bars.

“As a general rule, any crime committed during a riot or unlawful assembly will also be punished for the possible principal crime as well,” said Thorp.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, a group of demonstrators stormed their way into both chambers of Congress, and legislators were forced to evacuate. Rioters eventually clashed with police before entering the building, and five people ended up dead. The National Guard and federal police were called in to regain control.

Thorp explained the difference among insurrection, treason, and sedition.

“Insurrection is generally defined as a violent uprising against a governmental authority,” said Thorp. “Treason generally involves the actual levying of war against the government, or aiding enemies of the government in their acts of war against government.”

Prosecution for sedition generally requires conduct that incites rebellion against the authority of government.

“If public or private property is destroyed as part of a riot, insurrection, or insurrection can be punished both as part of the riot statutes, or individually under our crime of malicious injury to property,” said Thorp. “That can be a felony or misdemeanor, dependent upon the value of the property damaged or destroyed.”

Thorp said he has no plans to prosecute anyone who may have been at that riot or any others, unless a report is presented to him that would include his jurisdiction boundaries in District 27.

“In the unlikely event that that occurs, then I would consider any possible relevant charges, uphold my oath, and only charge if I believe that probable cause exists that a crime occurred within District 27,” said Thorp.

However, U.S. Attorney Brian Kuester, Thorp’s predecessor and a Trump appointee to his current office, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies are investigating the D.C. riots.

“If the Eastern District of Oklahoma is the proper venue for prosecuting anyone who committed criminal acts that occurred, the U. S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute them,” said Kuester.

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