NATIONAL NEWS

Prosecutors: Capitol cop told Jan.6 rioter to hide evidence

Oct 15, 2021, 10:59 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
FILE: Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Ja...
FILE: Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges after prosecutors say he helped to hide evidence of a rioter’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The officer, Michael A. Riley, is accused of tipping off someone who participated in the riot by telling them to remove posts from Facebook that had showed the person inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, according to court documents.

He is due to appear in federal court in Washington later Friday.

Riley, who responded to a report of a pipe bomb on Jan. 6 and has been a Capitol Police officer for about 25 years, had sent the person a message telling them that he was an officer with the police force who “agrees with your political stance,” an indictment against him says.

The indictment spells out how Riley sent dozens of messages to the unidentified person, encouraging them to remove incriminating photos and videos and telling them how the FBI was investigating to identify rioters.

It wasn’t clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the charges against him. A call to the U.S. Capitol Police wasn’t immediately returned.

His arrest and the accusation that an active duty Capitol Police officer was trying to obstruct the investigation into the attack is particularly notable because many of his colleagues were brutally beaten in the insurrection. The riot left dozens of police officers bloodied and bruised as the crowd of pro-Trump rioters, some armed with pipes, bats and bear spray, charged into the Capitol, quickly overrunning the overwhelmed police force.

One officer was beaten and shocked with a stun gun repeatedly until he had a heart attack; another was foaming at the mouth and screaming for help as rioters crushed him between two doors and bashed him in the head with his own weapon.

More than 600 people face charges in the Jan. 6 attack, in which a mob loyal to then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, battled police and tried to stop the certification of the election victory for President Joe Biden.

In the days after the attack, scores of rioters flaunted their participation in social media posts that bragged about their ability to get inside the Capitol. But then many started realizing it could be used as evidence and began deleting it.

An Associated Press review of court records has found that at least 49 defendants are accused of trying to erase incriminating photos, videos and texts from phones or social media accounts documenting their conduct as the pro-Trump mob stormed Congress and briefly interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

Experts say the efforts to scrub the social media accounts reveal a desperate willingness to manipulate evidence once these people realized they were in hot water. They say it can serve as powerful proof of people’s consciousness of guilt and can make it harder to negotiate plea deals and seek leniency at sentencing.

Riley told the rioter that the scene was a “total s—show.” “I’m glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad,” the officer wrote, according to the complaint.

When the rioter said through messaging that he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, Riley responded, according to court papers: “The only thing I can see is if you went into the building and they have proof you will be charged. You could always articulate that you had nowhere to go, but that’s for court.”

Later in January, after two had discussed their love of fishing, Riley told the man to get off social media.

“They’re arresting dozens of people a day,” he wrote, according to the posting. “Everyone that was in the building. Engaged in violent acts or destruction of property and they’re all being charged federally with felonies.”

Making digital content vanish isn’t as easy as deleting content from phones, removing social media posts or shutting down accounts. Investigators have been able to retrieve the digital content by requesting it from social media companies, even after accounts are shut down. Posts made on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms are recoverable for a certain period of time, and authorities routinely ask those companies to preserve the records until they get court orders to view the posts.

Despite initial criticism that Capitol police did not do enough to stop the rioters, Riley is the first Capitol police officer to be charged with a crime involving the insurrection.

But several current and former police officers were arrested on riot-related charges, including two Virginia police officers who posed for a photo during the attack. In July, authorities arrested an off-duty Drug Enforcement Administration agent accused of posing for photographs in which he flashed his DEA badge and firearm outside the Capitol during the riot.

Other law enforcement officers were investigated for their presence at the Capitol that day or at Trump’s rally before the riot. In January, an Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies nationwide found that at least 31 officers in 12 states are being scrutinized by their supervisors for their behavior in the District of Columbia or face criminal charges for participating in the riot.

In September, Capitol Police said officials had recommended disciplinary action in six cases after an internal review of officer behavior stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had opened 38 internal investigations and was able to identify 26 of the officers involved, police said in a statement at the time. In 20 of the cases, no wrongdoing was found.

It isn’t clear whether Riley was among the officers who were referred for disciplinary action.

___

Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoneix and Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Md. contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08:  U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) holds up a poster of a Twitt...
Farnoush Amiri and Barbara Ortutay

Ex-Twitter execs deny pressure to block Hunter Biden story

Former Twitter executives conceded to Congress that they made a mistake by blocking a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son, from the social media platform in the run-up to the 2020 election.
23 hours ago
A general view of atmosphere the premiere of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Frozen"at the El Capit...
Alli Rosenbloom

Disney announces more ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Frozen’ sequels are in the works

Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Wednesday during the company's earnings call that there are plans for additional sequels to both hit franchises in the works.
23 hours ago
Patrick Crusius...
Ashley Killough and Holly Yan, CNN

Suspect in El Paso Walmart massacre pleads guilty to 90 federal charges

Patrick Crusius plead guilty to all federal charges on Wednesday, nearly three and a half years after the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas -- one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in modern US history.
23 hours ago
The Twitter emblem is displayed on a smart phone outside the Twitter offices in Dublin on November ...
CNN

Twitter users briefly unable to tweet, send messages

Twitter users on Wednesday briefly encountered various issues with the platform, including the inability to tweet, send direct messages or follow new accounts.
23 hours ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the C...
Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

Biden in State of Union exhorts Congress: ‘Finish the job’

President Joe Biden has exhorted Republicans in his State of the Union address to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy and uniting the nation.
23 hours ago
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and other Republicans gather in the House Cham...
Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press

GOP on GOP: Romney scolds Santos, ‘You don’t belong here’

Congressman George Santos' presence at the center aisle for Tuesday night's speech was met with a stern rebuke from a fellow Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Prosecutors: Capitol cop told Jan.6 rioter to hide evidence