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Updated Thursday, Jan. 7 2021 at 4:30 p.m.
West Virginia’s two federal prosecutors say they will be working with colleagues in the U.S. Justice Department to investigate and hold to account those who took part in illegal activity during Wednesday’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists.
U.S. Attorneys William Powell and Mike Stuart — who were appointed by President Donald Trump to serve West Virginia’s Northern and Southern districts, respectively — each issued statements condemning the violent takeover of the capitol building as Congress was certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
Powell and Stuart indicated they will assist in bringing charges against those who can be identified as taking part in any illegal activity in Washington D.C. on Wednesday.
“Anytime anyone violates federal law, he or she is subject to prosecution. This includes the actions seen yesterday at the U.S. Capitol building,” said Powell in a statement issued Thursday. “If we determine jurisdiction, and evidence warrants prosecution in the Northern District of West Virginia, I will not hesitate to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Rosen said some charges will be announced Thursday and that the agency “will continue to methodically assess evidence, charge crimes and make arrests in the coming days and weeks to ensure that those responsible are held accountable under the law.”
“The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law,” Rosen said. “Our criminal prosecutors have been working throughout the night with special agents and investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police, FBI, ATF, Metropolitan Police Department and the public to gather the evidence, identify perpetrators, and charge federal crimes where warranted.”
Stuart, of West Virginia’s Southern District, said he is already working with other officials in federal law enforcement. He said he backs Rosen’s position on the matter.
“My team is working with our counterparts in law enforcement and, as the facts dictate, are prepared to enforce the Rule of Law and the laws of these United States,” said Stuart in a Thursday statement. “I fully support and endorse the statement of Acting United States Attorney General Rosen regarding yesterday’s intolerable events.”
At least two West Virginians have so far been identified as taking part in the capitol protests.
Newly elected Del. Derrick Evans, R-Wayne, live streamed video as he joined other pro-Trump extremists in breaking into the capitol building. In a since-deleted Facebook video that was copied and shared across various social media, Evans was filming outside of the building before the crowd made its way inside.
“We’re in! We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” can be heard on the video.
Roger Hanshaw, speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, has said his office is assessing Evans’ role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol, while other Republicans and Democrats across the state are calling for him to resign or be expelled from the body. Many are calling for him to be prosecuted.
Evans has not returned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s multiple requests for comment.
The Parkersburg News & Sentinel reported that city councilman Eric Barber also took part in Wednesday’s events at the capitol, although it is unclear the extent of his involvement. But the newspaper did report that Barber said that acts of violence went too far.
“I don’t think it should have been done, but I understand why people are angry,” Barber is quoted as saying about Wednesday’s events.
Representatives from Stuart’s and Powell’s office did not return a request for comment to say whether any West Virginians are being investigated for taking part in the storming of the capitol building. Federal prosecutors typically do not confirm or deny the existence of investigations until charges are made public through an indictment or an information.
However, a spokeswoman for Powell’s office did say that she believes that many of the potential charges will fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia — unless plots to commit illegal acts took place in another district.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia said charges related to 40 cases have been brought forth so far, with an additional 15 cases to be filed Thursday.
While it remains unknown if any West Virginians have or will be charged, the Department of Justice says specifics on any charges related to Wednesday are forthcoming.
Photographer Chris Jones of 100 Days in Appalachia is a fellow with Report for America.