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A U.S. Capitol Police officer was arrested Friday for allegedly warning a rioter to destroy evidence that they’d made it into the Capitol on January 6.
Officer Michael A. Riley, an officer with more than two decades on the force, was charged with obstruction of justice for Facebook messaging an alleged rioter and warning them to delete posts that said they’d been in the Capitol. Riley is the first Capitol officer who’s been arrested for charges stemming from the January 6 riots, according to the U.S. Capitol Police.
According to the indictment, Riley friended a man on Facebook who’d posted selfies and other evidence that he was in the Capitol during the riots and warned him to take the posts down so as to avoid possible charges.
He identified himself as a Capitol officer “who agrees with your political stance,” and told him to “take down the part about being in the building.”
When that individual was charged, Riley warned him of the charges and had a 23-minute phone call. That person then told others that his and their charges would only involve trespassing. At one point someone else sent Riley a video of that man smoking weed in Congress, and Riley said he already knew about it.
“Next time you want to come to D.C., just call me. You can stay at my house on the shore for free and bring your daughter to the museums. If you want to see the capitol building lets do it legally next time… i know a guy who can get you a tour...lol,” Riley sent in one message. “Its behind you now...lesson learned!”
Riley and the man continued to exchange friendly messages for more than two weeks. When the man warned Riley that he’d told the FBI of their conversations, Riley then deleted all of their Facebook direct messages. He seemingly tried to cover up for his previous actions by claiming the man had misled him about how he wound up in the building and blasted him for “smoking weed and acting like a moron” in the Capitol before saying he wouldn’t be in touch with him anymore.
Riley was arraigned Friday afternoon on two charges of obstruction of justice, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines. He’s hired David Benowitz, a D.C. criminal attorney who’s represented multiple Capitol riot defendants, as his counsel. He was released pending trial and is due back in court on October 26.
The Capitol Police said they placed Riley on administrative leave Friday upon his arrest.
“Obstruction of Justice is a very serious allegation. The Department was notified about this investigation several weeks ago,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “Upon his arrest, the officer was placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the case. The USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility will then open an administrative investigation.”
Riley currently serves on the Capitol Police’s K-9 Unit. He was named “Officer of the Month” back in 2011 for performing CPR on another injured officer.
While Riley is the first Capitol officer who’s been arrested for charges stemming from the January 6 riots, he’s not the only one who’s come under suspicion of aiding the rioters.
In February, the Capitol Police suspended six officers without pay for their actions on January 6 and said it was investigating 29 others. Some videos from the day appeared to show police officers moving fences to allow rioters to enter the Capitol. The Capitol Police said that those numbers haven’t changed since then.