ORLANDO, Fla. – As the U.S. Department of Justice arrests more people in connection with the Capitol Hill riots on Jan. 6, the same government they are accused of trying to overtake is now paying millions to defend them in court.
“Essentially, it’s an attempt to overthrow the government. That’s what it really came down to,” said Mitch Stone, president of The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “Now, they’re relying on that same government to provide them with a defense.”
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Stone said their defense is part of the constitution, and he admits it will be a big job for any attorney representing any of the people involved.
“There’s a lot of people who had no idea what they were getting themselves into,” he said.
“If you really look at the amount of information that has been generated about the event of the insurrection on Jan. 6, it’s massive,” attorney Mark O’Mara said.
O’Mara told News 6 he has been approached by some of those who have been arrested asking him to defend them.
He said he has had to decline and he said many others may have to as well.
“The amount of information that they now have to go through to see what nuggets may be there to benefit your client is just enormous and almost unattainable,” he said.
O’Mara points to thousands of hours of surveillance video, hundreds of social media posts and terabytes of cellphone data that federal investigators said they were using to build their cases against some of those arrested.
Those arrests include approximately a dozen residents of Central Florida.
Three of them – Connie and Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson – are accused of plotting their actions ahead of Jan. 6 through phone calls as members of the Oath Keepers.
Stone said he was being conservative when he told News 6 each case could cost taxpayers $50,000 from arrest to trial.
That amounts to $600,000 being spent to prosecute and try those Central Florida residents, and approximately $15 million to defend all of those arrested so far.
That includes George Pierre Tanios and Julian Elie Khater, who are both now linked to the death of Capitol Hill Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
“When that happened, this turned from an insurrection -- or an event -- to murder,” O’Mara said. “It’s going to stay in our attention for a long time to come.”
O’Mara said on average, only 2 to 3% of cases actually make it to a jury trial.
He said some of the Capitol Hill-related charges could be dropped, some suspects could plead to lesser charges, but others could go to trial and face decades in prison.