WASHINGTON, DC — D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday against the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and several individuals who participated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, cites the modern version of an 1871 law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which was enacted after the Civil War to safeguard government officials carrying out their duties and to protect civil rights.
The lawsuit is the first effort by a government agency to hold individuals and organizations civilly responsible for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the day Congress confirmed President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
“Over the course of several weeks, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, their leadership, and certain of their members and affiliates — motivated by a desire to overturn the legal results of the election and initiate a second term of Donald Trump’s presidency — worked together to plot, publicize, recruit for, and finance their planned attack,” the lawsuit states. “The result of that planning, the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, was not a protest or a rally. It was a coordinated act of domestic terrorism.”
A similar civil lawsuit led to a $26 million verdict in November against more than a dozen of the nation’s most influential white supremacists and hate groups for their role in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
Along with Proud Boys International LLC and the Oath Keepers, 31 people are listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed by the D.C. attorney general’s office. They include Thomas Caldwell, a resident of Berryville, Virginia, who is accused of conspiring with members of the Oath Keepers to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6. Caldwell, 66, was released from jail in March while his case is pending.
Other defendants include Joseph Biggs, a Proud Boys organizer who is facing charges in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol; Ethan Nordean, another Proud Boys leader charged in the attack on the Capitol; and Enrique Tarrio, a top leader of the Proud Boys who is serving a five-month sentence for burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church in D.C.
At a news conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday, Racine described the defendants listed in the lawsuit as “vigilantes” and “insurrectionists” who conspired against the District of Columbia by planning, promoting and participating in the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Racine cited four primary reasons for why his office filed the lawsuit: accountability for the people who planned or participated in the attack on the Capitol; deterrence against future violent and nondemocratic attacks on the city; restitution for the people who suffered mental and physical injuries during the attack; and justice for the 850 members of the Metropolitan Police Department who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to protect the people inside.
When the men and women sign up to join the D.C. police, “they don’t sign up for war on our country,” Racine said Tuesday.
BREAKING: I’m suing the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, the first civil lawsuit by a government entity against the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. They caused extensive damage to the District, our democracy and particularly the brave men and women of our Metropolitan Police Department.
— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) December 14, 2021
Four police officers — three members of the MPD and one Capitol Police officer — who responded to the U.S. Capitol insurrection have died by suicide since Jan. 6. Another Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, died the day after the insurrection riot after sustaining injuries in the attack.
“They caused extensive damage to the District, our democracy and particularly the brave men and women of our Metropolitan Police Department,” Racine said about the defendants listed in the lawsuit. “We’re holding these insurrectionists accountable for conspiring to terrorize the District by planning, promoting, and participating in the deadly attack on the Capitol. I’m seeking damages in this case and will keep working to ensure such an assault never happens again.”
Racine said the lawsuit’s intent is to get every “penny of damages” it can from the defendants. If a judgment in the case leads to bankruptcy of groups or individuals, “that’s a good day,” he said, noting the lawsuit is seeking to bring “as much financial pain” as possible against people responsible for planning and participating in the Jan. 6 attack.