As the monumental prosecution of the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol siege unfolds, the FBI is intensifying its efforts to locate and apprehend a growing number of fugitive defendants who have evaded capture after their initial court appearances.
This development comes as the case becomes the largest in American history, with approximately 1,100 criminal defendants hailing from nearly every state.
One notable case is that of Eric Bochene, who recently pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge related to the Capitol attack. However, Bochene’s hearing took place via a virtual conference connection from a holding room in the Broome County jail in Binghamton, NY, where he was dressed in his jail uniform.
This unconventional arrangement was due to Bochene’s status as an atypical Jan. 6 defendant, as he became a fugitive after his initial arrest.
Bochene was charged with four federal counts, including throwing an object at a Capitol window and entering the Capitol during the siege. His defiance was apparent throughout his legal proceedings, as he represented himself in court and made unconventional requests, including demanding $75,000 an hour in legal fees.
Despite his eventual guilty plea, Bochene’s journey took a detour when he failed to appear for a mandatory pretrial conference in Washington, D.C., leading to a warrant for his arrest. U.S. Marshals ultimately captured him in New York’s southern tier in August.
The case of Bochene is not unique, as at least six Jan. 6 defendants have become fugitives over the summer, with some still wanted by the FBI. Among them is Christopher Worrell, a member of the far-right Proud Boys organization, who disappeared just days before his sentencing hearing in August. The FBI has issued a wanted poster seeking information on his whereabouts.
Worrell had been found guilty of several federal charges, including assaulting police officers during the Capitol attack. He had been on house arrest awaiting his sentencing, for which prosecutors recommended a 14-year prison term.
In addition to Worrell, the FBI is actively searching for three other Jan. 6 defendants from the Tampa, Florida area, including Jonathan Pollock, who has been on the run for nearly two years. The agency has offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to Pollock’s arrest, emphasizing the seriousness of his alleged actions during the Capitol siege.
Pollock is accused of seizing a riot shield from an officer and engaging in a violent struggle before charging at the police line. His sister, Olivia Pollock, who is a co-defendant, also disappeared before her trial was set to begin in March.
Another fugitive from the Tampa area, Joseph Hutchinson, is accused of squaring off with police and assaulting officers during the Capitol attack. Both Olivia Pollock and Hutchinson had pleaded not guilty before absconding.
While some fugitive Jan. 6 defendants have been quickly recaptured, others like Marc Bru of Vancouver, Washington, evaded capture for a time while posting defiant messages on social media. Bru was eventually located in Montana after a car accident involving a drunk driver.
Legal experts caution that defendants who fail to appear in court and flee from authorities may face stiffer or additional charges upon capture. Lucius Outlaw, a Howard University associate law professor, explains that judges often take into account a defendant’s failure to appear when determining sentencing.
With nearly 1,100 arrests made in the U.S. Capitol siege investigation, the FBI and law enforcement partners remain committed to pursuing those responsible for the January 6 violence. An FBI spokesperson emphasized their full commitment to the ongoing investigation.