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Texas House hopeful and wife arrested for assaulting Capitol officers say they'll avoid prison; former prosecutor calls cases like theirs 'slam dunks'

Roughly 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Now, some of their assailants are running for office.

FORESTBURG, Texas — One year after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Department of Justice has arrested more than 725 people for their participation -- including almost three dozen North Texans

Around 140 law enforcement officers were injured that day, and officials say the rioters caused more than $1.5 million in damage to the Capitol building. But, a year later, several of those who were arrested for taking part in the insurrection are now seeking elected office.

Mark Middleton is one of them.

"It's actually been, well, very crazy as you could imagine," says Middleton, a Republican running for House District 68 in Texas.

FBI agents arrested Mark and his wife Jalise at their Cooke County home in April. They face several charges, including assaulting law enforcement officers.

"We weren't there to cause any malice," Middleton says.

Videos, however, allegedly show Middleton and his wife assaulting officers on the Capitol grounds. 

"That's very, very subjective," Middleton responds when pressed by WFAA about that footage. "That it is very, very much the government's view on it."

The couple's FBI arrest affidavit also mentions that Middleton made a now-deleted Facebook video where he said, "We are on the front lines. We helped push down the barriers." 

His wife also allegedly posted the following on Facebook: "We fought the cops to get in the Capital and got pepper sprayed and beat but by gosh the patriots got in!"

"Those are very unfortunate posts," Middleton says when reached by WFAA this week. 

Still, Middleton stands by his reason for being in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. But why run for office if he doesn't believe elections in this country are fairly operated.

"Hopefully, I can change that," he says. "I've learned from protesting, from doing Trump trains and everything else, that those don't work."

On his website, Middleton describes himself as patriot. He has also advocates for Texas seceding from the United States.

Middleton doesn’t deny that he was at the US Capitol and pushed up against police barricades. But he claims the alleged assault on officers was incidental contact. 

He doesn’t believe he’ll go to jail.

"I am exceptionally confident that I will not, nor will my wife, so I'm not even concerned about that," he says.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of West Coast Trial lawyers, isn't so sure about that.

"The substantive cases against the folks that enter the Capitol building, those are slam dunks," Rahmani says. "There's video surveillance. Many of them are posting or live streaming on their own social media platforms. There is no legal defense on the merits with respect to those individuals.”

Rahmani points out that many defendants have gotten rid of attorneys who have advised them to take plea deals -- because these defendants still believe in the merits of their case.

"This is not in any way normal because you're not dealing with your typical rational criminal defendant," Rahmani says. "These are people that were radicalized on social media. Some of them believed that they were acting at the direction of former President Trump, or that they were saving our democracy."

Middleton admits to the claim in the arrest affidavit that, while standing in front of a Thin Blue Line flag that traditionally serves as a sign of support for police, he yelled "F--- you!" at police officers.

"I regret saying that," Middleton now says. "I've prayed to God a number of times for forgiveness on that because I shouldn't have done that. [But] that was not illegal."

The FBI is still asking for tips identifying more than 250 people who assaulted law enforcement. 

The Middletons' case remains part of a massive backlog.

"It's been a slow process, but federal prosecutors, the Department of Justice and, in particular, the US Attorney's Office [are] not set up to triage or handle a large volume of cases," Rahmani says.

For his part, Middleton still doesn’t believe President Biden was fairly elected, despite court cases and audits revealing the election was both accurate and secure.

"Probably, our only regret is that we posted stuff on Facebook, and especially the words we said," Middleton says.

One year later, the effort towards justice and accountability continues slowly. But recovering the trust lost and the process for many to understand the reality of what happened that day? That will take much longer.

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