The more than 1,000 people already charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have clogged court dockets over the past two years, but the deluge is far from over. In a letter late last year that has just come to light, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., warned the D.C. federal court that the number could more than double in the first months of 2023, Bloomberg reports. To date, more than 500 people have pleaded guilty and more than 50 have been convicted at trial, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The one-page letter to the chief judge offers details on what Attorney General Merrick Garland has called “one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history.”
The Oct. 28 letter from U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves to Chief Judge Beryl Howell, which came as the department neared its 900th arrest, estimated an additional 700 to 1,200 defendants. Prosecutors continue to bring new cases as Special Counsel Jack Smith pursues a separate probe into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to undermine the 2020 election results. Graves warned Howell in the letter that it was “incredibly difficult” to predict future cases given the “nature and the complexity of the investigation.” Graves said he didn’t know how many of the new cases would involve misdemeanor versus felony charges, but he expected a higher percentage of felonies. In a statement, Howell said that the court “continues to manage its caseload and trial calendar efficiently, notwithstanding the delays occasioned by the pandemic.” Howell’s term as chief judge ends this week, when Judge James Boasberg will step into the role. “So far, the court has been able to manage the increased criminal caseload well,” Howell said. “Should a ‘surge’ of filings occur at a later date, the Court would assess what additional steps, if any, it should take.” Graves’ estimate aligns with previous comments by government lawyers in court that between 2,000 to 2,500 people went into the Capitol. NBC News recently reported that online sleuths have put the number of potential defendants – people accused of going inside, assaulting police, or destroying property – closer to 3,000. The caseload spike over the past two years has strained resources in the U.S. attorney’s office and the federal public defender’s office and created logistical and security challenges for the court.