Debunked: Qanon claims there have been 51k sealed indictments filed this year.

Will Merthon

New Member

Q-anon supporters are claiming that there have been over 51k sealed indictments filed this year, which they say is an unusually high amount. They claim that the primary target of the sealed indictments are pedophiles.


Source

The 'proof' for this claim, is a widely circulated chart labeled "Sealed Indictments", that supposedly shows the monthly total of sealed indictments in each district court of the United States.




Source

The first problem here is that when a document is sealed, it means nothing about the document is able to be known, INCLUDING whether or not it is an indictment.

This is the only information the PACER database returns for a sealed proceeding:



Source

As you can see, there is no information about 'what' the sealed document is... we only know that it is a sealed document.

This fact is even acknowledged at the bottom of the 50k chart posted above, by this line:


Therefore, it's EXTREMELY misleading to label the chart 'Sealed Indictments'. What the numbers on the chart 'really' represent, are 51k sealed 'PROCEEDINGS', some of which may be indictments.

To determine if the current 51k sealed proceedings is unusual, we need to compare it to something. At the bottom of the 51k chart, they say that a normal year produces 1077 out of all 94 districts combined:


That number comes from pg. 17 of this 2009 FJC report, which analyzed data from 2006. It represents the number of sealed criminal cases with the case type 'criminal'.


http://www.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/sealed-cases.pdf

This is the category that contains indictments, and as you can see on the same page, there were 284 sealed indictments within this group in 2006.


However, there is a problem using 1077 as a comparison. When you examine the search methods that the current research team is using, they do not limit their search to only criminal cases with the case type 'criminal'. They inexplicably include ALL criminal case types, including miscellaneous, magistrate judge, and many others.

This is a link to the exact search settings they use, which were provided by the research team on their google drive, where they keep all their files. You can see that in step 6, they instruct to leave all settings at default.



Source

These are all the different criminal case types that a default search includes, from pacer.gov:



This means that they are comparing two DIFFERENT sets of data: case type 'criminal' vs ALL case types.

If we go back to the FJC report, we can find that it also listed the number of sealed magistrate judge cases (15,177 pg. 21), and sealed miscellaneous cases (8,121 pg. 23) found in 2006. Adding these to 1077, the total number of sealed criminal cases that the report listed was 24,375.


Source

So the 1077 figure is a subset of the 24,375.

To state it plainly:

The research team is comparing a SUBSET from 2006 (1077) to the ENTIRE DATA SET of 2018 (51k). This is a blatantly false comparison.

Now that we have determined what we should 'really' be comparing, we can search PACER for recent history using their exact methods, and compare them to this year.

If you go to the blog post I link at the bottom of this post, I have provided the results of more recent PACER history searches, where you can observe that the numbers we are seeing this year are NOT dramatically higher, like the Qanon team is claiming.

It's easier to just estimate the number of indictments in the current 51k sealed proceedings, using the data from the 2009 FJC report. Even though there are methodology differences between these two studies, this yields a far more accurate result than comparing case count to case count, 12 years apart.

As I explained earlier, the 2009 FJC report listed 24,375 sealed criminal cases, with 284 sealed indictments... that gives us a percentage of 1.2%. If we apply 1.2% to the current 51,181 total, we get 614.

This means that using data supplied by the Qanon research team, we can estimate that out of the current 51,181 sealed proceedings, there would only be 614 sealed indictments.

614 is a HUGE difference from the 51,181 that they claim exist.

Their claim is a mixture of misleading terminology, false comparisons, and 12 year old data. When you break it all down and make accurate comparisons, it becomes quite obvious that there is nothing unusual going on this year.

If you go to the linked post below, you can find much more detailed information, including conversations with the team that makes the chart, the reasoning behind their methods, the flaws that exist within it, and their rebuttal.

This claim is being repeated all over the internet, by thousands of people. If you find this information useful, please share this thread, or my blog post, so that the myth can disappear.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to post them.

https://wmerthon6.wixsite.com/websi...e-analysis-of-the-50k-sealed-indictment-claim
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Besides comparing two completely different data sets (and confusing the word 'indictment' with 'sealed court proceedings'), the second bullet point under their chart says


Do they know how many have been unsealed or removed? because the PDF is a 2008 study that is looking at case files from 2006, that are still sealed in 2008.
 

Will Merthon

New Member
Do they know how many have been unsealed or removed? because the PDF is a 2008 study that is looking at case files from 2006, that are still sealed in 2008.[/EX]

The people that make the chart are not keeping track of them. This skews the data in their favor, as it causes current totals to appear inflated. As time goes by and cases become unsealed, the current 'sealed' numbers will drop, and the difference between previous years will be even smaller.

It's hard to say how much of an impact this has, beyond saying that it skews the numbers in their favor. The way I view it is that if we can show that nothing is unusual EVEN WITH data that is skewed in their favor, which we can, then it just accentuates how wrong they are.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There is a person that is 'attempting' to keep track of unsealed cases, which is the person that maintains a public excel sheet of their data. He and I had a fairly long conversation discussing this aspect. He has an automated system based off of RSS feeds from the courts, that captures cases that become unsealed.

The problem is that the numbering system that the courts use for sealed cases is not designed for something like this, as it contains many duplicate numbers. This throws his automated system off, and results in numbers that aren't accurate.

Just to see what we are dealing with, I examined one month from one district:

In his excel sheet, he shows that out of the 430 sealed cases filed in the month of December, 13 have been unsealed since the research team made their initial analysis on Dec. 29 2017:



Source

This is the report for that month from the research team's archive. To determine the number of sealed cases, you have to either manually count them, or download the .pdf and search for "*sealed*" (no quotes). I'll include a screenshot of my search:

California - Central, December 2017 (analyzed December 2017): Sealed proceedings: 430




Source


I went to PACER and re-analyzed that district in September 2018, which would be 8 months later. Count the sealed cases, and the difference between the two amounts is the number that have been unsealed so far.

California - Central, December 2017 (analyzed September 2018): Sealed proceedings: 387


Source


So in this district, for this month, 43 cases were unsealed after 8 months. This shows us that his unsealed counts are not accurate, since he showed that only 13 had been unsealed.


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Bottom line: This is an extremely difficult statistic to keep track of, and it's also difficult to determine how much of an impact it has. The only thing we can say with certainty is that it skews the numbers in favor of the current research team, and is yet another example of how flawed their methods/conclusions are.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
and is yet another example of how flawed their methods/conclusions are
There are a lot of flaws in methodology.

Their google docs archive is too big for me to sift through. Did they do a month by month count of the 6 months prior to "the storm" starting? (which obviously if viewed now would be a lower number due to unsealed cases, but would give us some indication )
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
As far as the "pedos" eating pizza and playing PingPong (ie Pizzagate) mentioned in the Opening Post claim. This site doesn't show any great "storm" so far. You have to click the individual years to see increases and decreases.

http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/analysis-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics
bold added to highlight

Which is a bit disheartening since Obama approved additional funding for such endeavors in 2015.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/178
 

Will Merthon

New Member
There are a lot of flaws in methodology.

Their google docs archive is too big for me to sift through. Did they do a month by month count of the 6 months prior to "the storm" starting? (which obviously if viewed now would be a lower number due to unsealed cases, but would give us some indication )

No, they have not analyzed anything prior to when the secret investigation supposedly started (Oct. 2017). The only thing they are using for comparison is the FJC report from 2009.

The information you just referenced is a great resource for examining things on the unsealed side of the fence. Very useful for debunking people who fall back to that issue, after they realize the sealed indictment claim is false.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Very useful for debunking people who fall back to that issue
More useful after march 31 2019. Because technically if DOJ's prosecutions decreased ANOTHER 8 percent or more April 2017-Oct 2017, then a push for more prosecutions after Oct 2017 would raise the stats to "less than 1%". But since the Qanon folk didn't do numbers for that time period April-Oct 2017 I guess we'll have to wait till next year to find out.
 

Mike Jackson

New Member
Sorry, TL;DR. Can somebody give me the bottom line? Despite the poor comparisons used by Storm Watcher et al, a) what is the ratio of the average number of sealed *proceedings* preceding 2018 compared to the final count for 2018, and b) based on that ratio and historical data, what is the average number of sealed indictments we can predict? Thanks!
 

Will Merthon

New Member
Hi Mike,

There have been some updates to this issue since I wrote the article, but the main point is still accurate.

To answer your question, there is no complete historical data that tracked sealed indictments. The 2009 study they used for a comparison found 24k sealed 'cases' (not indictments), which is the proper comparison to the 2019 Qanon research number. However, that number is still not a good comparison, because the 2009 study ONLY counted cases that had been sealed for at least 2 years. Here is a graphic that explains it.



The only other record of sealed indictments/cases are the spot checks that I discussed in the full article.

So to answer your question, no one really knows how this year compares to past years. Using the spot checks in the article, however, we find that the current amounts do not appear to be significantly higher than in recent years.

Since I wrote this article, they have replaced the word 'indictments' at the top of their chart with 'cases'. That means the chart is no longer misrepresenting the data (mostly), but after a year+ of constantly referring to them as indictments, it doesn't do much good now, because the majority of people still consider them indictments.



They have also started pulling more data from PACER, which gives us more insight into the sealed cases. Using case types, we can now narrow the count down to the category that would contain indictments. Based on this data, the person that maintains the spreadsheet of their data (calls himself Indictmentanon), now concedes that only around 2k are likely indictments. And again, there is no data that shows that 2k is a significant amount.



Let me know if you have more questions.
 

Mike Jackson

New Member
Thanks Will!

I'm not a Trump supporter. I'm only interested in getting to the truth. For some context, below is a link containing the following:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presiden...very-human-trafficking-prevention-month-2019/

I don't know if any of those numbers correlate with your research (I suck at math lol). Just adding to the databank that is this thread.

-Mike
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Thanks Will!

I'm not a Trump supporter. I'm only interested in getting to the truth. For some context, below is a link containing the following:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presiden...very-human-trafficking-prevention-month-2019/

I don't know if any of those numbers correlate with your research (I suck at math lol). Just adding to the databank that is this thread.

-Mike

the numbers the OP (Opening Post) is about, don't really differentiate specifically 'human trafficking' numbers. You'd have to look at year to year statistics for that, and it usually takes a number of years for these agencies to gathre and correlate their numbers.
https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=40
 

Will Merthon

New Member
deirdre is correct, the statistics you posted aren't necessarily relevant to the sealed indictment count.

This is a graph that gets passed around, comparing Obama v Trump in human trafficking arrests. It was a false comparison, as I explained on the graph. 2017 was lower than 3 of the past 4 years under Obama, in regards to human trafficking arrests. 2018 numbers have not yet been released.



 
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