A U.S. Capitol Police officer faces a two-count indictment accusing him of obstruction of justice after allegedly advising a Facebook friend to scrub evidence that this person participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
Officer Michael Angelo Riley, who has more than 25 years of experience, has been accused of helping an unnamed individual—known only as “Person 1” in his indictment—erase his digital trail the day after the assault on the U.S. Capitol. On the day of the breach, Riley responded to reports of an explosive device near the Capitol complex, prosecutors say.
A U.S. Capitol police officer with the same name, initials, and time served on the force was named “Officer of the Month” in February 2011.
“It Was a Total Shit Show!!!”
Authorities say that Riley, 50, was arrested today. He said that he understood the charges against him at his initial appearance this afternoon.
“On January 7, 2021, through a Facebook direct message, Riley initiated contact with Person 1, who had posted ‘selfie’-style photographs, videos, and other commentary on Facebook admitting his presence and conduct inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the indictment states. “Riley and Person 1 had never communicated directly before.”
Prosecutors claim that Riley told this person: “Hey [Person 1], im a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to charged. Just looking out!”
According to the indictment, Riley accepted this person’s request on Jan. 1, and they did not know each other beyond both being “avid fishermen” and “members of fishing-related Facebook groups.”
Riley and his fellow fisherman exchanged dozens of more Facebook messages that day, and “Person 1” allegedly shared three videos from the Capitol that day—both outside and inside the building, prosecutors say.
“I get it…it was a total shit show!!! Just wanted to give you a heads up,” Riley allegedly wrote. “Im [sic] glad you got out of there unscathed[.] We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
“When Person 1 stated that he did not think he had done anything wrong, Riley responded, ‘The only thing I can see is if you went in the building and they have proof you will be charged. You could always articulate that you had no where to go, but that[‘]s for court,'” according to the indictment.
Riley allegedly added: “Dont [sic] sweat it, they might choose to only charge certain people and not everyone. Personally i don[‘]t know what they have decided, just know our guys and the FBI are going through everything.”
On Jan. 8, Riley allegedly sent a direct message to the man about the death of a U.S. Capitol police officer, and a second unidentified person allegedly reached out to Riley with a video showing “Person 1” a day later.
“Person 2 also sent Riley a screenshot of the video, capturing Person 1 inhaling from a hand-rolled cigarette,” the indictment states. “Riley responded to Person 2, in part, ‘Yep I know…'”
Prosecutors claim that Riley’s online conversations with “Person 1” continued throughout the month, and Riley allegedly continued to urge him to “Get off of social media.” On Jan. 16, the person sent an article claiming he had been arrested to Riley, calling the report “fake news,” according to the indictment.
“Theyre [sic] arresting dozens of people aday [sic],” Riley allegedly wrote. “Everyone that was in the building, engaged in violent acts, or destruction of property…and theyre [sic] all being charged federally with felonies.”
When “Person 1” expressed confusion about whether he had been charged with a crime, Riley sent over his phone number and the two engaged in a 23-minute conversation, prosecutors say.
“Within hours of this conversation, Person 1 sent text messages to two other individuals indicating that he had spoken to “capitol police” and the charges against him were likely to involve only trespassing,” the indictment states.
Prosecutors say that the duo continued to exchange friendly messages.
“Next time you want to come to DC just call me, you can stay at my house on the shore for free and bring your daughter to the museums,” Riley allegedly wrote. “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. Its behind you now…lesson learned! Just ask your attorney whats [sic] next.”
“I Tried to Defend You”
The FBI arrested “Person 1” on Jan. 19—the date of Hiles’s arrest—but prosecutors claim even that event did not chill their cordial chats.
A day later, on Jan. 20, the new arrestee allegedly told Riley via a Facebook message: “The fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you if they havent already asked you about me they are gonna. They took my phone and downloaded everything.”
“That fine,” Riley was recorded replying.
Prosecutors claim Riley deleted his Facebook correspondence with “Person 1” that day, and a day later — some 12 days after receiving a video of the man smoking a hand-rolled cigarette inside the Capitol — Riley allegedly sent an indignant Facebook message denying knowledge of his actions.
“Hey [Person 1], another mutual friend was talking about you last night,” Riley was recorded writing on Jan. 21. “I tried to defend you but then he showed me a video of you in the Capitol smoking weed and acting like a moron. I have to say, i was shocked and dumbfounded, since your story of getting pushed in the building with no other choice now seems not only false but is a complete lie. I feel like a moron for believing you.. I deleted all your post [sic], but i wanted to text you this morning and let you know that I will no longer be conversing with you.”
Multiple people charged with breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were accused of smoking cannabis inside the building. New Yorker James Bonet, who was charged on Jan. 25, pleaded guilty to that conduct earlier this month. Another, Ronald Sandlin, was arrested on Jan. 29.
Charged with two counts of obstruction, Riley’s initial appearance began at 1 p.m. in federal court in Washington, D.C. Department of Justice attorney Molly Gaston agreed to his pre-trial release, subject to a number of restrictions to his travel and a bar on his communications with potential witnesses. Riley agreed to all of them, including a no-firearms condition.
Read the indictment below:
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
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