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One Year After The Capitol Riot: Many Arrests, One Illinoisan Sentenced To Jail, And Worries About Prospects For Democracy

CHICAGO (CBS) -- On this one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, hundreds of people are facing charges – and more are expected – and some continue worry about what the riot could mean as an omen for the future of democracy.

As CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol that Wednesday afternoon - overrunning the steps, beating Capitol Police officers, and eventually making their way inside

As the chaos cleared, and the insurrection ended, at least 12 people from the Chicagoland area were charged and have pending cases. CBS 2's De Mar spoke with two of them as they returned home.

One of them was Brad Rukstales of Inverness, who had been the chief executive officer of Schaumburg-based tech company Cogensia. He was fired by the company the same day he was hit with federal charges for his role in the riot.

Brad Rukstales
Brad Rukstales (Credit: CBS 2)

"I had nothing to do with charging anybody or anything or doing any of that," he said. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I regret my part in that."

As Capitol Police retreated down a flight of stairs that winter day, federal prosecutors said chairs tumbled down behind them. Rukstales is accused of throwing one of those chairs. He pleaded guilty to charges in August.

Rukstales is the only Illinois resident who has been sentenced to jail time for his part in the riot so far. sentenced to 30 days and ordered to pay $500 in restitution.

He is reporting to a federal prison in Michigan on Feb. 1.

Dre Mar also talked with David Fitzgerald of Roselle, who was arrested for a curfew violation and trespassing on federal property.

"Unfortunately, I got arrested," Fitzgerald said two days laster. "OK, yeah. Guilty of curfew violation. OK. I'm a sinner, you know."

Fitzgerald said he did not go inside the Capitol, but he was a couple hundred feet away from the violent chaos.

"We could see the Capitol," he said. "And we're like, 'Are people climbing that?' And they were. I know what happened. I saw people in there. That's not good. We even heard people died, and I'm like what?"

But he said he had no regrets.

"What would I regret?" he said.

A year after the riot, De Mar talked with U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois).

"I think we have to remember the fragility of our democracy, Charlie," Krishnamoorthi said. "I was evacuated twice after the Capitol Police discovered a bomb 200 feet from my office window."

Krishnamoorthi said he is worried that the sentences for those charged have been light, and not enough people have been held accountable for their role on Jan. 6, 2021.

"When people don't feel the consequences of their actions, they feel they can do it again - and so I'm concerned about that," he said.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra also talked with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) about his memories of that day a year ago.

"I was doing a radio interview. At that moment it hit me, and it's sort of the perspective now – I said, what does it tell the rest of the world that I am sitting here waiting for the National Guard so that I can go back and vote on a peaceful transfer of power?" Quigley said. "As I walked back in Statuary Hall, all of the statues were covered with powder, and someone said, 'Don't touch your face!' and it's because that powder was what happens to tear gas when it settles."

Quigley walked around toward the Speaker's Lobby, where he saw the aftermath of an incident where a police officer shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, 35, as she tried to climb through a broken window.

"When the glass broke, and you could hear the tear gas canisters and the doors being pounded on, at the peak moment, I remember hearing one of my colleagues say, 'So when does the effing cavalry get here?' It never came," Quigley said. "And there's a lot of issues with the fact that the cavalry never came."

Despite the horrors of that day, Quigley said members of Congress cannot live in fear, and the work of government must continue.

"The polarization has always been there. The president poured gasoline on that fire – President Trump – in his election and in his four years as president. He fed an anger that existed. I think he fueled a dark side of this country that still exists, and I don't know that we can ever reach those who are so far out there that they think it's OK do to what took place January 6," Quigley said. "But we have to try. There have to be healing efforts. There have to be attempts at building coalitions that get good things done."

Meanwhile, DePaul University professor and terrorism analyst Tom Mockaitis told De Mar without confidence in our elections, the consequences of Jan. 6 may linger for years and should be a concern for voters.

"The foundational thing that makes democracy possible has been undermined," Mockaitis said. "I think they should be very worried, I think, but I don't think they should be idle either."

Chicago Police Officer Karol Chwiesiuk was also charged in the riot after pictures of him surfaced wearing a CPD sweatshirt inside the Capitol. He has been on a leave of absence since August and not getting paid. His case is still pending.

Also Thursday night, Chicago activists rallied in Federal Plaza, calling for action to prevent another Jan. 6. During the democracy rally, speakers urged Congress to pass voting rights legislation to protect the will of the people in future elections.


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