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Domestic Terrorism Prosecutions Reach All-Time High in FY 2020

“Because of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the public is highly interested in government’s wider enforcement response to acts of domestic terrorism. In fact, last year in the wake of protests surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, there has been a large jump in federal prosecutions classified as domestic terrorism. FY 2020 saw 183 domestic terrorism prosecutions filed by U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country – the highest total since government tracking began a quarter of a century ago. This compares with 69 such prosecutions in fiscal 2017, the first year of the Trump Administration, 63 domestic terrorism prosecutions during FY 2018, and 90 such prosecutions during FY 2019. These figures are based on case-by-case government records obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University after successful court litigation. The data show that cases U.S. Attorneys’ offices categorized as domestic terrorism were brought using a variety of lead charges, including 18 U.S.C. 111 for assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees; 18 U.S.C. 871 for threats against the President and successors; 18 U.S.C. 1752 for knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds; 18 U.S.C. 844 involving the importation and storage of explosives; 18 U.S.C. 231 civil disorders; 18 U.S.C. 875, interstate communications; and 18 U.S.C. 876, making threatening communications. In addition, regulatory violations were sometimes the lead charge, such as failure to comply with official signs or creating any hazard on property to persons or things. U.S. Attorneys’ offices vary greatly in their numbers of domestic terrorism prosecutions. The largest during 2020, a total of 78 prosecutions, were brought in Oregon federal courts. However, many U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the country brought no domestic terrorism suits, or just a single suit in all of FY 2020. This includes the U.S. Attorney in the Western District of Washington (Seattle) who was recorded as bringing only a single domestic terrorism suit, although protests there similar to those in nearby Portland, Oregon, had figured prominently in the news. For additional details, including information on domestic terrorism prosecutions for each federal judicial district, go to:

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