TAMPA, Fla. — A year ago, the world watched as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the process of counting electoral votes solidifying the results of the presidential election. Since that day, hundreds of people have been arrested, many charged and sentenced for their involvement in the January 6 insurrection, including some from the Tampa Bay area.
“I was utterly disgusted at what I saw at the Capitol,” said Stacy Arruda, a former FBI agent. “I just don’t understand how we’ve evolved or devolved so much as a society where people thought that that was okay.”
To date, more than 725 defendants have been arrested in nearly all 50 states and DC. ABC Action News combed through the documents supplied by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and looked specifically at those cases involving people from Florida and the Tampa Bay area.
At least 66 people have been arrested in Florida, according to a DOJ list of defendants charged in federal court in DC related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Breaking it down further, we found at least 14 arrested from the Tampa Bay area.
“In an event like this, the FBI is very, very skilled at large-scale investigations,” said Arruda.
Arruda had been with the FBI for more than 20 years. She explains in investigations like this, hundreds, even thousands of hours of video are collected from places like social media and the public, then all that needs to be analyzed frame by frame.
“You find Subject A, and you find all the frames that Subject A is in, and you figure out well, what did they do? Did they merely enter the Capitol? Did they steal something from the Capitol? Did they attack law enforcement? What exactly did they do?” said Arruda. “Once you’ve figured out what they’ve done, then you’ve got to try and figure out who they are.”
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Among the Tampa Bay area cases is Adam Johnson, who was seen in a viral photo carrying the Speaker of the House’s lectern. He’s since pled guilty to one count and has a sentencing date set for next month.
Then, there’s Paul Hodgkins from Tampa. Court documents show he entered the Senate chamber and took a selfie-style photo. Hodgkins pled guilty on June 2 to one felony count of obstructing an official proceeding and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Among the longest sentences imposed in the investigation into the events of January 6 was Robert Scott Palmer of Largo. According to court documents, Palmer was among rioters outside the U.S. Capitol and later threw a wooden plank at officers, then sprayed a fire extinguisher and threw it at the officers. In December, he was sentenced to 63 months, or more than five years, in prison.
“It will take years to finish, and you’re going to get folks that are very, very remorseful of what they’ve done and want to do whatever it is they can possibly do to help their situation out, and they’re going to cooperate against some bigger fish,” said Arruda.
“I’m sad to say I don’t think we’ve really learned anything,” said Dr. J. Edwin Benton, a professor of Political Science at the University of South Florida.
Benton describes the events of that day as surreal. When asked how far we’ve come since then, about the political polarization we’ve witnessed, and what we’ve learned, Dr. Benton shared how he felt one year later.
“We were all surprised by what happened. I think very few people saw that coming, but I think today I’m worried when is the next one going to occur? I think many Americans are feeling the same way because we’ve made no headway,” said Benton.
The FBI continues to ask for your help identifying people believed to be involved that day, with dozens of pictures and videos available to view online. If you recognize someone, you’re asked to submit a tip by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visiting tips.fbi.gov.