Chicago activist Lawrence Ligas faces new felony charge in Jan. 6 US Capitol attack

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Saturday, January 20, 2024
Chicago activist faces new felony charge in Jan. 6 US Capitol attack
Larry Ligas claims because he declined prosecutors' plea deal for four misdemeanor charges, he was hit with a "revenge felony" charge on a count of obstruction.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A longtime Chicago activist is now facing a more serious charge in his January 6 Capitol riot case, but he has a unique explanation for the new count.

Larry Ligas claims that because he declined a plea deal with federal prosecutors on four misdemeanor charges, they slapped him with an additional felony count of obstruction. It is a so-called "revenge felony" charge.

Prosecutors allege Ligas hindered Congress on January 6, 2021, when the presidential election was to be certified.

When thousands of people descended on the U.S. Capitol, federal authorities said security camera video and Larry Ligas' own selfies showed him in front of the Capitol and inside the Capitol wearing a red, Make America Great Again ball-cap, and at times, an American flag scarf.

Ligas was arrested in early December, 2021 and charged in a criminal complaint with four misdemeanors.

From day one, his first court appearance in Chicago, the 64-year-old North Side man vowed to fight the charges.

A new grand jury indictment adds a felony count of obstruction to the case against Ligas.

In an email about the I-Team's coverage of his case, Ligas stated that the Justice Department "...added another Jan. 6 charge a felony after I refused to take a plea agreement and sit down with the FBI."

ABC7's Chief Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, Gil Soffer, explained that this situation is sometimes the reality.

"No question that the government one of the tools at its disposal is to threaten more serious charges," Soffer said. "If a defendant does not agree to a plea deal on certain terms to lesser charges, and that appears to be what happened here."

In the email to Soffer, Ligas wrote he was within the law on Jan. 6 because he was non-violent and never disrupted Congress.

However, as the I-Team reported last week, some Jan. 6 cases across the country are being paused until the Supreme Court rules whether that use of obstruction laws is constitutional.

Soffer added, "If they uphold this charge under these circumstances, then no problem for the government. If the Supreme Court says no, you can't bring this kind of charge on these circumstances, well, then that charge falls away and the government is no worse off than it was originally when it brought for misdemeanor charges against this defendant."

Ligas did not reply to I-Team requests to sit down and discuss the new felony charge, and the I-Team did not hear back from his current public defender about whether they will ask for a pause in the case until a Supreme Court ruling comes in.

In his email, Ligas said the 200 people who planned the attack, damaged the capitol and went after police, need to be held accountable.