Seven Capitol Police officers sue Trump, right-wing extremist groups over Capitol attack

Suit relies on anti-Klan law, charges a conspiracy to undo election result

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from the Ellipse at the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, as the Congress prepared to certify the Electoral College votes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters from the Ellipse at the White House in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 6, as the Congress prepared to certify the Electoral College votes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 26, 2021 at 3:11pm

Seven Capitol Police officers who were assaulted during the Jan. 6 insurrection are using a law passed after the Civil War to sue former President Donald Trump, his associates and far-right extremist groups for allegedly working together to stop Congress, through force and intimidation, from certifying the 2020 presidential election results.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday, names Trump; his longtime associate Roger Stone; the groups Stop the Steal, Proud Boys and Oath Keepers; and others. It says Trump and those named are culpable for the violent insurrection.

The suit cites Trump tweets and other remarks in 2020 laying the groundwork for saying the election would be "rigged." After Trump lost, he and others conspired to challenge results in cities and states with large Black populations, and to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, the suit says.

"TRUMP and other Defendants propagated false claims of election fraud, encouraged the use of force, intimidation, and threats, and incited violence against members of Congress and the law enforcement officers whose job it was to protect them," the suit says.

"Defendants’ unlawful efforts culminated in the January 6 mass attack on the United States Capitol and the brutal, physical assault of hundreds of law enforcement officers. Many Defendants in this case planned, aided, and actively participated in that attack. All Defendants are responsible for it."

The officers allege the defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act from 1871 , which provides recovery for those injured by conspiracies such as one to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College results. Other counts in the lawsuit allege negligence, assault, battery and violation of the D.C. Bias-Related Crimes Act.

The Capitol Police officers suing Trump are Conrad Smith, Danny McElroy, Byron Evans, Governor Latson, Melissa Marshall, Michael Fortune and Jason DeRoche.

“We joined the Capitol Police to uphold the law and protect the Capitol community.  On Jan. 6 we tried to stop people from breaking the law and destroying our democracy," the officers said in a joint statement. "Since then our jobs and those of our colleagues have become infinitely more dangerous. We want to do what we can to make sure the people who did this are held accountable and that no one can do this again.”

Five of the plaintiffs are Black, including Latson and Fortune. Latson was physically assaulted by rioters and was called racial slurs. Fortune was injured by bear spray and other pollutants in addition to being the subject of racial slurs from the pro-Trump rioters.

DeRoche confronted rioters on the north side of the West Front steps, where they threw batteries at the officers and attacked them with bear spray and mace, resulting in DeRoche's eye swelling shut.

"These officers want to keep this from happening again, and that's why they want to hold these defendants accountable," said Edward Caspar, an attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed the suit.

Some of the officers named in the suit are on leave and some are still working, Caspar said.

"On the sixth of January, these officers stood up and really protected our democracy, and I think they're doing it again now by putting their names on this complaint," Caspar said. "They want to protect democracy. They want to keep this a country where we elect our leaders with votes and not violence."