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Jan. 6 offenders have paid only a fraction of restitution owed for damage to U.S. Capitol during riot

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Washington — Nearly 3 1/2 years after the U.S. Capitol siege, the government has recovered only a fraction of the court-ordered restitution payments for repairs, police injuries and cleanup of the damage caused by the rioters.   

Hundreds of offenders who pleaded guilty or were convicted for their roles in the Capitol attack were ordered to pay for injuries to police officers who defended the Capitol and reimbursement to the architect of the Capitol to help offset the costs of repairs as a result of damage from Jan. 6, 2021.   

Although the Justice Department and Capitol administrators have estimated the costs of cleanup and repairs were nearly $3,000,000, approximately 15% of the money has been paid back so far, according to a review by CBS News.  

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Protesters entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, fueled by then-President Donald Trump's continued claims of election fraud, in an effort to overturn the results before Congress finalized them that day. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A congressional source familiar with the matter told CBS News that approximately $437,000 has been reimbursed by Jan. 6 offenders to the architect of the Capitol.

Restitution court order often used in sentencing of Jan. 6 Capitol riot offenders. Government document

Court-ordered restitution, often ranging from between $500 to $2,000 per Jan. 6 offender, has become a standard sentencing component — at least 884 have been sentenced so far.   

But CBS News found that the payments have been sluggish, and federal taxpayers are far from being made whole because some offenders argue they are having difficulty coming up with the money. Another factor is that the court system and federal government have permitted a lenient timeframe for restitution payments.

"Those who were incited by the former president to violently attack the Capitol and stop the peaceful transfer of power owe the taxpayers money," said Rep. Joe Morelle, a New York Democrat and ranking member of the House Administration Committee, which has oversight of the Capitol complex.  

"The money they owe is to pay for repairs for damage that President Trump inspired them to inflict," Morelle told CBS News, 

In the 41 months since the attack, federal taxpayers have footed the bill for a range of repairs to the Capitol complex and for the costs of injuries and deployment of police officers who responded. Historic windows were smashed. Police equipment was stolen. Police officers suffered injuries and continue to require medical coverage. A CBS News review of Justice Department records shows nearly 150 police officers were assaulted on Jan. 6. A similar number reported suffering injuries.  

Federal judges have exercised some flexibility and allowed a long time frame for offenders to make their restitution payments. In some cases, the courts have permitted them to make small monthly installment payments, and only after they are released from prison sentences. In cases reviewed by CBS News, offenders have been permitted to make payments as low as $250 a month. Some have yet to begin payments due to ongoing prison sentences.

James Little, Jan. 6 offender, shown inside U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Government document

A series of offenders have cited financial hardship. James Little, a 53-year-old truck driver from Claremont, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to unlawful picketing and parading. At his sentencing hearing in January 2024, he told the judge, "Because of the situation with Jan. 6 and the publicity about it, I have had a real hard time with my career the last three years." He added, "So, it's been a financial hardship for me for one thing. And I actually had to borrow the money from my mother."

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, demanded that offenders pay for the damage they caused.

"D.C. suffered significant damages due to the barbaric attack on January 6th, and it's outrageous that only 16% of court-ordered restitution has been paid by the perpetrators more than three years later," Norton said in a statement. "D.C., which bears the burdens of hosting the federal government and pays the highest per capita federal taxes in the country, must be made whole."

Further complicating matters for the architect of the Capitol, the agency has faced obstacles in getting access to the money paid so far. A congressional aide familiar with the issue told CBS News the $437,000 in payments collected so far has been transferred to an account in the Treasury Department, as required under current law. House members will consider adding language and provisions to an upcoming government funding bill to enable the architect of the Capitol to more easily access and deposit the Jan. 6 restitution funds. 

The Justice Department regularly cites the widespread damage and impact of the attack when asking for the court to order restitution at Jan. 6 sentencing hearings. Higher-level offenders, including those who were convicted of conspiracy, have been ordered to pay $2,000 each. Lower-level offenders, including those who did not engage in violence or theft, have been required to pay $500.

In a February 2022 court filing in the case of Robert Schornak, the Justice Department said reimbursements were needed from offenders to offset the "cost of damages to the Capitol Building and Grounds, the costs associated with the deployment of additional law enforcement units to the Capitol, the cost of broken or damaged law-enforcement equipment, the cost of stolen property and costs associated with bodily injuries sustained by law enforcement officers and other victims."    

The costs suffered for helping injured officers has been cited at some Jan. 6 criminal proceedings. At the March 21 sentencing of Jeffrey Sabol, the judge said the cost of leave and treatment for one Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police officer has exceeded $30,000 so far.

Sabol's defense attorney cited likely challenges in Sabol's ability to promptly pay the restitution in his case.  At Sabol's March 21 sentencing hearing, Judge Rudolph Contreras said, "The defendant has been detained for almost 3 years and, thus, has not been able to earn a living. He otherwise lacks assets and will have to pay restitution."

Former President Trump has publicly pledged to pardon Jan. 6 defendants but hasn't specified whether he would also seek to commute their restitution payments. The Justice Department has considered the completion of restitution payments as part of its criteria when deciding whether to support a defendant's pardon application.    

A person familiar with the process said that usually, defendants discuss with their probation officers the timing and amount they're able to pay. This generally occurs during the supervised release period and the timetable for payment is set by what probation officers deem feasible. 

But the Justice Department's website says "the chance of full recovery is very low" because "[m]any defendants will not have sufficient assets to repay their victims."

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