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The Justice Department has arrested 11 people from Oregon and Washington for participating in the Jan. 6 attack.

Like many Americans, Billy Williams watched in horror last Jan. 6 as a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol while a joint session of Congress certified the 2020 election results.

Williams, who Trump appointed as Oregon's U.S. Attorney, said it was only after he got home from work that day that he began to fully grasp the threat the rioters posed to democracy.

"I was so disgusted at what was going on," Williams said. "And it being encouraged by the president of the United States, I just found it despicable."

Political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president. And like other presidential appointees, Williams received a large commission certificate signed by the president that hung, framed, on a wall in his sixth floor office at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in downtown Portland.

"I went in the next day to my office," Williams recalled, "and took it down."

Williams, a career prosecutor whose office led federal cases stemming from both the 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Portland's 2020 racial justice protests, said taking down the signed certificate was his way of symbolically separating himself from Trump.

"I could see and hear the words chosen that he spoke and it just made me, in that moment, feel like I needed to do something," he said. "I didn't like what I saw happening."

Williams placed the certificate in a closet where it remained until he retired from the Justice Department that February. Now, he said, it's in his basement.

Over the course of the last year, the Justice Department has arrested and charged at least 11 people from Oregon and Washington for participating in the Jan. 6 attack. Those cases are representative of the broader prosecution picture forming the past 12 months as charges have been brought against more than 725 people across the country. Most defendants face low level charges for their participation, though federal prosecutors have sought harsher sentences for people who participated more directly in that day's violence.

"Those who assaulted officers or damaged the Capitol face greater charges. Those who conspired with others to obstruct the vote count, also face greater charges," U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a speech Wednesday. "Those who did not undertake such conduct have been charged with lesser offenses, particularly if they accepted their responsibility early and cooperated with the investigation."

A massive FBI investigation, research by extremism experts and investigative reporting by several news organizations have shown coordination between militias like the Oath Keepers and other violent far right groups, like the Proud Boys, contributed to the violence on Jan. 6.

Proud Boys members have been charged with the felonies for the insurrection, including two Oregon brothers in their 20s. Jonathanpeter Allen Klein, a self-identified member of the group, and his older brother Mathew Leland Klein both face a conspiracy charge – among the most serious charges brought against the pro-Trump rioters – as well as five other charges, including obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and destruction of government property.

This is an excerpt from a longer story. Read the rest of the story on Oregon Public Broadcasting.


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