ATLANTA — An 11Alive viewer wondered why the January 6th U.S. Capitol defendants are not facing domestic terrorism charges, while protesters here in Atlanta against the proposed public safety training facility are facing those charges.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has been clear about his views on the people who invaded the U.S. Capitol.
“That siege was criminal behavior plain and simple and behavior we at the FBI view as domestic terrorism,” Wray said during a May 2021 hearing before Congress.
With that in mind, 11Alive viewer Jennifer Linton has questions.
“Something seems off about that and I’m really not understanding it,” Linton said.
Why are protesters of the Atlanta public safety training site being charged with domestic terrorism, but the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol defendants are not?
Former federal prosecutor Michael J. Moore
Georgia state law
A report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service
WHAT WE FOUND:
According to that report, while federal law defines domestic terrorism it is not, on its own, a chargeable federal offense.
“If you think about it, I think there’s generally a reticence by elected officials sometimes to label perhaps constituents as domestic terrorists,” said former federal prosecutor Michael J. Moore said.
He says federal prosecutors use the definition of domestic terrorism as a guide.
“It defines the conduct and it defines what law enforcement can do. So, federal prosecutors for a long time have gone under statutes like sedition, conspiracy, and those types of things which essentially covers the same activity as a domestic terrorism statute would," Moore said.
While they can’t on the federal level, law enforcement officers in Georgia can charge a suspect with domestic terrorism. Georgia law allows that charge when a suspect, for example, tries to coerce the policy of the government by use of “destructive devices, assassination, or kidnapping.”
So we can Verify, there is no federal domestic terrorism charge that prosecutors could use against the January 6th suspects while Georgia does have a specific charge that prosecutors here can and do use.