Democrats eager to jail Jan. 6 rioters once shielded left-wing radicals who bombed the U.S. Capitol

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who boasted of arresting and convicting hundreds of people who rioted in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, signed off on dismissing the charges and quashing the arrest warrant for a woman accused of blowing up a bomb near the Senate chamber.

Elizabeth A. Duke jumped bail nearly four decades ago and has never been captured and prosecuted for the Capitol bombing, nor has she faced charges for her role in bombing the Navy Yard and Fort McNair, or plotting to bomb other federal buildings, among them the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House and the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Democrats quietly helped toss her case in 2009, a move that Mr. Garland later signed off on.


Some of the people who worked to lighten their punishment are now pursuing one of the biggest federal prosecutions in history against the Jan. 6 rioters who pushed their way into the Capitol to protest the certification of President Biden’s electoral win over President Trump.

Democrats also condemned Mr. Trump for vowing to pardon Jan. 6 rioters if he wins another White House term in November.

“In terms of the double standard, here’s an actual bombing of the Senate chamber,” Paul Kamenar, counsel for the National Legal and Policy Center, said. “The Jan. 6 protest had some windows broken and things like that. But a bomb wasn’t set off.”

The bomb that prosecutors say the women helped detonate on Nov. 7, 1983, was planted a few feet from the Senate chamber and could have easily killed or injured senators and staff who planned to work late that evening debating spending bill amendments.

Senate leaders decided at the last minute that they no longer needed to work into the night because amendments had moved along more quickly than expected and at a pace that Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. called “little short of miraculous.”

Mr. Baker ordered the Senate to recess at 7:02 p.m. However, a crowded reception near the Senate chamber was in full swing and didn’t end until around 9 p.m.

Two hours later, at 11 p.m., the bomb exploded, ripping apart the mahogany doors to Minority Leader Robert Byrd’s office and causing, government historians wrote, a “potentially lethal hole” in a wall partition outside of the Republican cloakroom, where lawmakers and staff would have been congregating if the Senate had stayed in session as originally planned.

The blast showered the cloakroom with pulverized brick, plaster and glass and destroyed ornate mirrors, chandeliers and furniture. A historic portrait of Daniel Webster was blown to pieces.


Five years later, in 1988, a grand jury indicted seven people for the bombing including Rosenberg, Evans and Ms. Duke, who was already a fugitive who skipped bail on separate explosives charges in Pennsylvania.

Rosenberg served only 16 years of a 58-year term. Evans was freed after 16 years of her 40-year sentence. Rosenberg was never formally prosecuted for the bombing because she was already serving a lengthy prison sentence after being caught with 740 pounds of explosives, a submachine gun and other weapons prosecutors said were intended for future bombings and bank robberies to fund their cause.

Both Rosenberg and Evans had also been charged in a deadly Brinks truck robbery in New York but Rosenberg was never prosecuted due to her lengthy ongoing prison sentence.

President Clinton granted the two women clemency in January 2001 on his last day in office and over the objections of prosecutors. Rosenberg’s commutation came at the urging of Rep. Jerrold Nadler, currently the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

In contrast to his help securing leniency for Rosenberg, Mr. Nadler has called for heavy punishment of the Jan. 6 protesters.

“It is critical that all of the perpetrators of this insurrectionist attack be identified, investigated, arrested, charged and subsequently prosecuted.  The Department of Justice must dedicate every available resource to its offices across the country in order to ensure that all of these individuals are held accountable,” Mr. Nadler said in a letter to Mr. Garland three weeks after the Jan. 6 riot.

Mr. Nadler did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Mr. Garland said the Jan. 6 case has become “one of the largest and most complex and resource-intensive investigations in our history.”


It’s not clear if anyone in the Justice Department is trying to arrest Ms. Duke, now 83, over her role in exploding a bomb near the Senate chamber four decades ago.

Despite being listed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, her indictment was quietly dismissed and her arrest warrant quashed in 2009 by a magistrate judge at the request of a federal prosecutor working under Attorney General Eric Holder.

A transcript shows the hearing lasted just a few minutes and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Beatrice did not offer a reason, at least on public record, for seeking the dismissal of the five-count indictment against Ms. Duke, who would have been in her 60s.

Mr. Garland reviewed the dismissal of Ms. Duke’s case in 2014 when he was serving as chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court.

He tossed out a complaint by lawyer Montgomery Blair Sibley that Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson was never authorized to throw out the indictment. Magistrate judges can make recommendations for district court judges to dispose of cases but are not authorized to toss out indictments, he argued in his complaint to Mr. Garland.

Mr. Garland did not directly address the merits of his argument or the decision to throw out the indictment and arrest warrant for Ms. Duke.

Mr. Beatrice “never showed any good cause, he didn’t say any reason for it, and that was that,” Mr. Sibley said.


While her indictment in Washington has been tossed out, Ms. Duke still faces multiple charges from a 1985 arrest in Pennsylvania for unlawful storage and possession of firearms and explosives and for possessing counterfeit identification and Social Security cards.

An official at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington said the case was thrown out because of the charges in Pennsylvania.

“She remains a wanted fugitive,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said. “I’m not able to comment on investigative resources allotted to ongoing cases.”

Ms. Duke, along with Rosenberg and Evans, were part of a radical political terrorist group that sought to use “armed propaganda” to force changes in federal policies.

In addition to bombing the Capitol, the women and four others were charged with bombing Fort McNair and the Navy Yard.

The group also placed and detonated explosives at four locations in New York City, including the FBI’s Staten Island office and they plotted to bomb the Old Executive Office Building across from the White House as well as the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

The group was caught with a cache of “rifles, shotguns, handguns, bulletproof vests, time-delay firing mechanisms into operable bombs,” Justice Department officials said in 1988 following the five-count indictment.

Rosenberg, Evans and Ms. Duke were also accused of involvement in the 1981 armed robbery of a Brinks truck that killed two police officers and a security guard.

Mr. Clinton commuted the sentences of Evans and Rosenberg without providing an explanation.


One protester was killed by police and several other deaths were connected to the riot, among them a stroke and four suicides by police officers.

The Justice Department aggressively prosecuted members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, two groups who department officials say planned, incited and carried out the storming of the Capitol, vandalized the building and physically attacked police officers.

Mr. Garland has dedicated millions of dollars to tracking down not only Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, but protesters who marched past barriers and onto the Capitol grounds that day, or entered the building while the doors were propped open by police.

Cancer patient Pam Hemphill, a 70-year-old grandmother, served 60 days in a federal prison in Dublin, California, for “unlawful” demonstrating in the Capitol and encouraging protesters to enter the building that day.

Rapper Antionne Brodnax was sentenced to five months in prison for walking into the Capitol on Jan. 6 and later taking a photo of himself smoking on a vehicle in front of the building — a photo he used as artwork for his rap album cover.

Another protester was sentenced to more than three years in prison for smoking marijuana in a senator’s office and later misbehaving in court.

A member of the Proud Boys received a five-year sentence for throwing a rock at the Capitol doors while former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, who was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the riot.


Evans has been an advocate for lesbian and female inmates’ rights.

On Nov. 9, 1983, two days after the explosion in the Capitol, senators resumed business and added an amendment to their spending bill to give the Justice Department $100,000 to track down the bombers.

Powered by up to seven sticks of dynamite, the bomb was hidden underneath a bench outside of the chamber hours before the explosion, and long before lawmakers, staff and visitors had left the area. The amateur explosive device sat unnoticed as a simple pocket watch timer ticked toward an 11 p.m. detonation.

  • ”It is indeed fortunate that the Senate was not in session last evening, as had been announced,” Mr. Baker, Tennessee Republican, told the New York Times the day after the explosion. “Had we been in session at 11 o’clock, undoubtedly there would have been grave injury and perhaps loss of life.”

• Kerry Picket contributed to this report.

* Original Article: