Southwest Ohio suspects charged in the U.S. Capitol not surprising, political expert says

At least 10 of the more than 570 people nationwide charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Washington, D.C., Capitol breach are from the southwest Ohio, but a local political expert says this should not be surprising to anyone.

Ohio — where 28 people have been charged — and southwest Ohio are in many ways “Trump country,” and many supported the former president and his claims of election rigging, said Chris Devine, a University of Dayton political science professor.

“I think if you said early on in this case that a disproportionate number of people involved in the Capitol riot had come from (southwest Ohio), I don’t think that would have been shocking compared to some other parts of the country,” Devine said. “This seems like an area that could be more susceptible to that kind of extremism.”

David Mehaffie of Kettering is the latest person in the region to be arrested for his actions with the massive crowd of people who sought Jan. 6 to disrupt the joint session of Congress, where the electoral college votes from the 2020 election were being counted.

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The accusations against the local defendants range in severity. Some are accused of planning to carry out the riot before it took place; another is charged with committing an act of physical violence in Capitol grounds or building. Meanwhile, others are accused of walking through the Capitol building.

Other local people charged in federal court in Washington D.C. are Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, of Champaign County; Bennie and Sandra Parker of Warren County; Brandon and Stephanie Miller, of Bradford; Timothy Hart, of Huber Heights; Therese Borgerding of Piqua and Walter Messer of Englewood.

Donald Trump won Ohio with more than 3.1 million votes last November, garnering more votes than any other candidate in Ohio history and winning the state by more than 8%.

Data from the Department of Justice shows at least 28 people charged were arrested in Ohio — that’s the fifth most of any other state, according to an analysis by this news organization.

Florida and Texas have had the most arrests in the country, 56 and 55 respectively.

Devine said Trump especially appealed to people who suffered economic losses over the years and who thought the political and economic systems weren’t working for them.

“It fits some patterns you might have expected in this area in recent years,” he said.

However, the number of local defendants is still a small sample size, Devine said, and therefore it’s tough to find a pattern or a cause.

Of the 10 people charged, four of them -- Watkins, Crowl and the Parkers -- are accused of meeting each other and communicating before and after the riot. Watkins and Crowl have been connected to the Oath Keepers.

The government says the Oath Keepers are a loosely organized group of militia members who believe “the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

Also, the Millers are a married couple who were together, prosecutors say.

Devine also pointed out that the former president’s call to rally was nationally broadcast, and the way people connect is different from years ago.

“The other factor is that so much of the radicalization as I understand it happens online, so that adds some layer of difficulty in determining the geographic patterns why is this happening in Ohio and the region, it’s a little different than if someone were gathering at some local house or lodge or something like that and having physical meetings,” he said.

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Arrests related to the Capitol breach by each state:

Florida 56

Texas 55

Pennsylvania 47

New York 41

Ohio 28

*Numbers provided by the Department of Justice.

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