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Federal prosecutors seeking NYers who stormed U.S. Capitol

Courtesy Jul Thompson

You may not know this, but it can be a federal crime to cross a state line while committing a crime, for example driving from Buffalo to Washington to take part in a mob assault on the nation's Capitol. 

Anthony Bruce spent 38 years as an assistant U.S. attorney, around half of that prosecuting organized crime around Western New York. He is out of that now, but watching as U.S. Attorney James Kennedy reported his office is looking at local leads and tips on the Washington, DC attack.

Credit U.S. Attorney's Office / Twitter

Bruce said two issues are key.

"A: That they’re actually involved in the riot and that’s actually come up in the pictures we’ve seen on television today. We can identify a lot of those individuals," he said. "And B: Where did they come from to get to Washington, DC? And if they came from Buffalo to get to Washington, that’s enough. They don’t necessarily have to know they traveled to go to a riot. They just have to travel and then intentionally get themselves intentionally involved in a riot."

Credit FBI / Twitter

Bruce said prosecuting these cases can be much easier than it was. There are innumerable pictures with recognizable faces showing what happened. In addition, there are computer records for everything from buying a ticket to Washington to EZPass travel on the state thruway or toll bridges showing travel across state lines.

Bruce said cases could be prosecuted here or in Washington. He said one particular law carries a mandatory five-year sentence for crossing state lines to riot.

"You are certainly very possibly liable for prosecution under that statute and the prosecution can be in the Western District of New York. It can be in Pennsylvania, anywhere you traveled to get to Washington," Bruce said.

Credit Washington, DC Police / Twitter

He said some of this is up to a jury, if a case goes to trial. Jurors would decide the line between political protest and mob assault. The jurors would also be told they can’t Google the issues, since that is up to the lawyers in the courtroom, or go on social media during the trial.

"If you can prove that Mr. Smith traveled from Buffalo to Washington and was involved in whatever happened on the front steps of the Capitol, to me, there’s more than enough to charge," Bruce said. "Conviction? Another story, but there’s some pretty good prosecutors out there."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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