As reported by Fox News, an active-duty United States Marine major was arrested and then formally charged Thursday, May 13, in connection to his alleged participation in the January 6 U.S. Capitol Building riot. The major was identified by an unnamed source.
Major Christopher Warnagiris, 40, was arrested and charged with five federal felonies. His charges include Assaulting, Resisting or Impeding Federal Law Enforcement Officers, Obstruction of Justice, Obstruction of Law Enforcement During Civil Disorder, Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds and Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds.
Identified, Charged, and Arrested
Warnagiris made his first court appearance Thursday following his arrest. He said he has yet to secure an attorney.
The Justice Department said in a released statement:
“Warnagiris violently entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, after pushing through a line of police officers guarding the East Rotunda doors. Once inside, Warnagiris positioned himself in the corner of the doorway, using his body to keep the door open and pull others inside. When a U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officer tried to pull the doors shut, Warnagiris refused and continued pushing it open. Warnagiris can be seen pushing the officer in an effort to maintain his position in the open door.”
The full criminal complaint and charging documents can be viewed here.
“In the first 120 days after Jan. 6, approximately 440 individuals have been arrested on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, including over 125 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing,” the DoJ added.
According to the Marine Corps Times, Major Warnagiris is an active-duty field officer assigned to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Staff Training Program in Quantico, Virginia.
The First Is the Worst
Major Warnagiris is the first active-duty military member to be charged in connection to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building.
His arrest is problematic for him in more ways than one. First, he is now facing multiple felony charges in Federal Court. Second, as an active-duty servicemember Major Warangiris also falls under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) statutes. Unlike in civilian courts, the UCMJ doesn’t prevent double jeopardy for active-duty members. Double-jeopardy is the prosecution or punishment of someone more than once for the same incident.
An additional issue for Major Warnagiris is that as the first active-duty member arrested in connection to the events on January 6, he’ll likely be the example case and scapegoat for the entire active-duty military. The U.S. Department of Justice no doubt will seek to make an example of Major Warnagiris in an attempt to prevent this type of incident from happening again.
As with all criminal cases, though, Major Warnagiris should only be held accountable for crimes he committed, not for the alleged crimes of the masses. Nor should he be used to satisfy the sentiment of the country — or the Left, in particular.
Making of a Martyr?
We’ve seen in very recent history that politicians, prosecutors, and juries use cases that best fit their agenda to “make right” perceived ails in society. Frankly, this is plainly un-American.
Coming from a law enforcement background, the one thing I noticed about Major Warnagiris’s charges is that they include what law enforcement commonly calls the “trifecta” of charges: Interfering with an Officer, Obstruction of Justice, and Resisting Arrest. These charges are among the easiest charges to “stack” if an officer is trying to really prove a point with a suspect. The burden of proof for each of those charges is so subjective that it is rare for defendants to “beat” the charges.
The reason officers call this the “trifecta” is that if someone resists arrest then they typically have also obstructed justice and interfered with an officer. Additionally, though, Major Warnagiris was charged with multiple “obstruction” charges, which in my opinion simply shows the DoJ’s desire to hammer him.
This charging trifecta is similar in concept to Derek Chauvin’s charges: Murder 2nd, Murder 3rd, and Manslaughter 2nd. George Floyd only died once, but Chauvin was charged with three different variations of murder. Lesser charges are typically considered “included offenses” and therefore not added to the list of charges. For example, if you commit a burglary then you’ve also likely committed theft and trespassing. However, you generally don’t see people charged with trespassing in addition to burglary, because it is an included charge. Major Warnagiris not only didn’t get the “benefit” of not having his charges stacked but he can also be superfluously charged according to the UCMJ.
Legal Backlash Against Double Jeopardy
Historically, active-duty servicemembers have been charged twice for the same crime. Nevertheless, many legal and veteran advocates argue that double jeopardy protection should be applicable, regardless of one’s service status.
In an article published by the American Bar Association (ABA), Joseph Darius Jaafari wrote the following about one prominent case of this procedure:
“When Austin Greening shot and killed his friend and fellow sailor in 2013, he was charged with murder in a Virginia court and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to serve three years, with two and a half years suspended.
Greening ultimately served only seven weeks in jail. Naval commanders thought that wasn’t enough; they had him taken back into custody and charged in a military court.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice — a set of laws and regulations established by Congress that enforces military behavior and conduct — Greening, then 26, was again charged with murder.”
Kent Eiler, project director of the Veterans Assistance Project, said, “My own view is that if this looks like and smells like double jeopardy, this violates the Constitution.”
Unfortunately for Warnagiris, though, it is still currently both possible and likely for him to be charged concurrently in relatively equal, but dramatically different court systems.
The backlash of the sequence of events that occurred on January 6 is now coming to fruition for those who participated in illegal acts.