Washington, DC – Federal prosecutors have decided not to charge nine members of the production crew from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” who were arrested inside the U.S. Capitol complex in June.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said prosecutors “cannot move forward” with misdemeanor charges against the people arrested inside the Longworth House Office Building (LHOB) on June 16, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors said it wasn’t probable that they could get a conviction on the charges since the television late show’s production crew had been invited to the building and their escorts had not asked them to leave, according to Miller.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said some of the people had been told by police that they were supposed to have an escort with them as they wandered the complex, the Associated Press reported.
“The Office would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these invited guests were guilty of the crime of unlawful entry because their escort chose to leave them unattended,” Miller explained. “We do not believe it is probable that the Office would be able to obtain and sustain convictions on these charges.”
U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has not released the names of the nine people who were arrested, but sources told the Associated Press that comedian and writer Robert Smigel, as well as several producers, got locked up.
The production team was arrested on the evening of June 16 in the hallway of LHOB, which is home to a number of lawmakers’ offices, The New York Times reported.
The building was closed to visitors at the time, and Capitol Police said the nine people who were arrested had already been asked to leave the building earlier in the day.
The trespassers were ultimately charged with unlawful entry, The New York Times reported.
The arrests occurred while heightened security is in place at the Capitol complex because of ongoing Jan. 6 hearings and recent controversial U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
CBS released a statement after its employees were arrested that said the production team had been on Capitol Hill interviewing members of Congress with the Triumph, the insult comic dog, a puppet voiced by Smigel for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” The New York Times reported.
— Triumph® ᴛʜᴇ ɪɴsᴜʟᴛ ᴄᴏᴍɪᴄ ᴅᴏɢ™ Headquarters💩 (@TriumphICDHQ) June 16, 2022
The pre-arranged interviews with members of Congress were finished and the production team was filming “final comedy elements” when police arrived to arrest them, according to CBS.
The production team spent the night in jail before they were processed and released.
Stephen Colbert attempted to explain the arrests on his show on June 20, NPR reported.
“Democratic and Republican congresspeople agreed to talk to Triumph,” Colbert said. “He’s a bipartisan puppy. He’s so neutral, he’s neutered.”
“They went through security clearance, shot all day Wednesday, all day Thursday, invited into the offices of the congresspeople they were interviewing,” he said.
Colbert said his team’s arrested “actually, isn’t that surprising,” NPR reported.
“The Capitol police are much more cautious than they were, say,18 months ago, and for a very good reason,” he joked.
Conservative media commentators were quick to claim that the crimes that production crew’s alleged crimes were not unlike those of many of the Jan. 6 rioters who were charged after entering the U.S. Capitol illegally and mugging for cameras.
There were no riots in progress when the CBS crew entered the Capitol.
But Colbert hit back and defended his production team and their intentions, NPR reported.
The late night host said it was “a fairly simple story,” “until the next night when a couple of the TV people started claiming that my puppet squad had quote ‘committed insurrection’ at the U.S. Capitol Building.”
“This was first-degree puppetry. Hijinks with intent to goof. Misappropriation of an old Conan bit,” Colbert said.