As thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, some insurrectionists urged their fellow rioters to “hold the line” against law enforcement defending the beacon of democracy.
“Listen, guys, they only got so much mace. And we got all these patriots. We’re not running out. They’re going to run out,” Mathew Capsel, who was captured on video assaulting several National Guard members during the insurrection, said in a TikTok video. “Hold the line. Don’t run.”
Marine veteran Hector Vargas Santos posted a similar message on Facebook: “WE THE PEOPLE TOOK OVER THE U.S. CAPITOL. #HOLDTHELINE.”
Now, it appears several rioters are abandoning the group’s original rallying cry to never give up—potentially opting for plea agreements with prosecutors to save their own skin.
More than 150 individuals across 39 states have been federally charged for participating in the Capitol siege. While a majority of these Trump supporters only face misdemeanor charges, recent court documents suggest that some are planning to plead guilty or take plea deals in exchange for their cooperation in ongoing investigations.
According to federal court records, at least three rioters have agreed to be charged by information—a process generally used by those planning to plead guilty—instead of waiting for a grand jury indictment. Like an indictment, an information is still a charging document outlining an individual’s alleged crimes.
“Informations are a clear sign that these defendants intend to plead guilty,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman told The Daily Beast. “Defense attorneys do not advise clients to waive their right to an indictment (or in rare cases, a preliminary hearing) unless there are active plea negotiations and an offer on the table.”
“Even if there is the potential for cooperation against others, defendants will usually plead guilty, then cooperate with the government before they are sentenced, whether that be a proffer, testifying before the Grand Jury, or testifying at trial,” he added.
The group of rioters now being charged by information includes Rasha Abual-Ragheb, who had been on the FBI’s radar even before she allegedly stormed the Capitol. The information was filed Jan. 28, 11 days after the Justice Department filed its initial criminal complaint against the New Jersey woman.
Abual-Ragheb was arrested on Jan. 16 and charged with entering or remaining in a restricted building, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building. According to the criminal complaint filed following Abual-Ragheb’s arrest, she had been interviewed by the FBI in November after her name appeared in Facebook and Telegram chats for the New Jersey chapter of the anti-government militia group the Three Percenters.
In one Facebook message to the group, Abual-Ragheb “advised the revolution will start not by standing by but by standing up,” and that a “civil war is coming and they need to show support, and rise up and fight for our Constitution.”
During an interview with the FBI, Abual-Ragheb said that she was a Trump supporter who had attended many of his rallies and was “blocked from making posts on Facebook and Twitter for pro-Trump postings.” Abual-Ragheb was identified to the FBI by two confidential sources.
Bryan Betancur, a self-proclaimed white supremacist who allegedly went to the riots while still wearing an ankle monitor for another crime, was charged by information on Jan. 27, according to court records. Betancur, who was out on probation for burglary, was seen posing with a Confederate battle flag at the Capitol. On Wednesday, prosecutors filed a new five-count information for Betancur, charging him with entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing at a Capitol building.
According to a criminal complaint filed after his arrest, the Maryland resident “has made statements to law enforcement officers that he is a member of several white supremacy organizations. Betancur has voiced homicidal ideations, made comments about conducting a school shooting, and has researched mass shootings.”
“Betancur voiced support for James Fields, the individual convicted for killing an individual with his car during protests in Charlottesville, Virginia. Betancur has stated he wanted to run people over with a vehicle and kill people in a church,” the complaint adds.
After first being charged by criminal complaint, an information was filed Jan. 28 against Matthew Carl Mazzocco, who was arrested on Jan. 17 at his San Antonio home after he uploaded TikTok videos from the riots. According to the complaint, the 37-year-old mortgage loan officer could be heard telling others “not to take or destroy anything” as he roamed the halls of the Capitol building. Then, he noted, “they were probably going to get in trouble for what they were doing.”
“The capital [sic] is ours!” he captioned another video. On Thursday, prosecutors filed a four-count information for Mazzocco, charging him with entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct, and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.
It has yet to be confirmed why these rioters opted to waive their right to a grand jury, or if they have already agreed to cooperate with authorities. Rahman believes their possible assistance could be vital for prosecutors trying to secure criminal charges against those who organized the Jan. 6 siege.
“Cooperation is always likely in federal cases, especially here, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office has both significant leverage and wants to identify the ringleaders in this sedition conspiracy, as well as other potential domestic terrorist threats,” Rahman said. “It’s uncommon to have this large of a gathering of political extremists from all across the country, so the government will have a treasure trove of information and witnesses to work with.”