Last November, as then-President Donald Trump ramped up his dangerous lies about mass voter fraud, a man hopped into a Hummer bearing a QAnon sticker and headed to a Philadelphia vote-counting location to stop what he believed was an election that was being stolen. The QAnon obsessive, along with a co-founder of Vets for Trump, were arrested by Philadelphia police, who found them in possession of an AR-style rifle and a samurai sword.
Two months later, in the nation’s capital, the same QAnon follower stormed the U.S. Capitol, entering the building alongside dozens of fellow conspiracy theorists who had bought into Trump’s lies about the outcome of the 2020 election. Now, nine months after the Jan. 6 attack, he’s one of hundreds of Trump supporters who were captured on video violating federal law that day, but who haven’t yet faced federal charges for their conduct.
Federal authorities have posted some impressive numbers in the nine months since Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in support of his lies about a stolen election, and then left the scene without being arrested, leaving behind injured officers and millions of dollars in damage and security costs. The feds have made more than 625 arrests since Jan. 6 as part of what authorities have repeatedly described as one of the largest investigative and prosecutorial efforts in American history.
Yet even with hundreds of arrests and months of painstaking work in the unprecedented investigation, federal authorities have arrested just a fraction of all the potential defendants who were captured on video committing criminal offenses that prosecutors have said warrant charges.
Law enforcement was unprepared and overwhelmed by the onslaught of pro-Trump rioters on Jan. 6. Now, law enforcement is at risk of being overwhelmed by the mob of Jan. 6 cases that are flooding the system at every step.
In the weeks after the attack, law enforcement officials estimated that 800 people had entered the Capitol. That number stuck around in media coverage for months, becoming a benchmark against which the FBI’s progress has been measured. The 800 figure has been mentioned in stories as recently as this week.
In reality, as online sleuths have discovered over the past several months, that’s only a fraction of the scope of criminal activity that day. A HuffPost analysis of public-facing data on the Capitol attack, combined with the findings of online investigators working under the #SeditionHunters moniker, shows that the total number of Jan. 6 participants who could face charges if identified tops 2,500.
Federal investigators have quietly ticked up their own estimate. In a budget request earlier this year, the FBI told Congress that “approximately 2000 individuals are believed to have been involved with the siege.” Law enforcement officials did not dispute HuffPost’s 2,500 figure.
That means federal authorities have charged about 25% of the suspects who could face criminal charges for their conduct on Jan. 6. At the current pace, it would take federal authorities until early 2024 to bring cases against 2,500 defendants. And some of the easiest cases to bring, the “low-hanging fruit,” have already been charged.
Online investigators, who have been responsible for identifying countless Jan. 6 defendants and will play a role in dozens of forthcoming FBI cases, have counted more than 2,000 individuals they say breached the Capitol building. These sleuths refer to the people they say they spotted inside the Capitol as “Sedition Insiders,” and have collected the highest-quality image they’ve found of each rioter (even if that photo was snapped while the suspect was outside the Capitol).
Of that group of “Sedition Insiders,” the Sedition Hunters believe, more than 1,500 are still at large.
Hundreds more potential defendants who were not spotted inside the building are either publicly wanted by the FBI for activities outside the Capitol, or were captured on video committing crimes but not on the FBI’s website.
Most of the thousands of people who passed police barricades and were on restricted grounds at the Capitol on Jan. 6 will never be charged. On the west side of the building alone, according to an analysis Carnegie Mellon University researchers conducted for The Washington Post, there were more than 9,400 people. Officers were outnumbered more than 58 to 1.
There are plenty of cases in the works, including presumably the arrests of Matthew Beddingfield of North Carolina (who fought with police and stormed the Capitol while out on bond for attempted murder), Taylor Taranto of Washington state (a county GOP webmaster who stormed the Capitol with a weapon and wondered this summer when the feds would “get this party rolling!”), and David Walls-Kaufman, a Capitol Hill chiropractor who lives within sight of the building he stormed while wearing a distinctive jacket.
Antonio LaMotta is the QAnon believer who traveled to Philadelphia with Vets for Trump co-founder Joshua Macias last November. LaMotta and Macias spent about a month behind bars before posting bail. After the Capitol attack, Philadelphia prosecutors moved to revoke their bail, saying they were in D.C. at the time and that Macias gave a speech that helped incite the mob. LaMotta, as the Daily Beast reported, was caught in CNN footage with members of the Oath Keepers on Capitol grounds.
At a hearing in January, LaMotta’s lawyer argued that LaMotta was “clearly just standing there” at the Capitol. A Philadelphia judge increased LaMotta’s $750,000 bail by $15,000, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, meaning that LaMotta had to pay $1,500 to get out of jail again. Both men were barred from attending rallies or using social media.
At the time, authorities didn’t know whether either of the men entered the Capitol. But online sleuths managed to find LaMotta inside. Back in June, a member of a sleuthing group named Capitol Terrorists Exposers spotted LaMotta in surveillance footage released in connection with another Capitol case, against Grady Owens, who came to D.C. with his extended family and appears to have been identified by federal authorities using facial recognition.
The footage shows LaMotta inside the Capitol as police try to force the mob back outside. LaMotta is on the front line and comes face to face with officers. He makes no attempt to retreat, and when he’s eventually shoved toward the doorway, he appears to try to stay inside despite a clear path to the exit.
Knowing that LaMotta was at the eastern doors of the Capitol that lead into the rotunda, sleuths ― sometimes using the hashtag #IAmAntonioLamotta ― found clear footage that featured the man at the top of the Capitol steps as the battle between police and Trump supporters continued.
An attorney who represented LaMotta in his Philadelphia case did not respond to requests for comment in June or this month, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the FBI didn’t comment on a potential federal case against LaMotta.
For now, LaMotta is like a lot of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol: waiting to see when his time will come.