A federal judge has denied a request for relaxed pretrial release conditions from the Pennsylvania woman accused of stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D) laptop from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“The record reflects that the defendant initially tried to evade arrest by leaving her home, deleting her social media accounts, and changing her phone number,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote in her order, issued Wednesday, denying Riley June Williams‘ modification request (citations omitted).
Williams is accused of stealing a laptop from Pelosi’s office during the melee at the Capitol on Jan. 6. According to prosecutors, a witness had told investigators that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
Prosecutors also allege that Williams had tried to evade arrest by leaving her home, telling her mother that she would be gone for a few weeks, changing her telephone number, and deleting her social media account. Her lawyer, Lori Ulrich, has said that Williams was fleeing an abusive ex-boyfriend.
From the time she was arrested, Williams was considered by federal authorities to be a flight risk. U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui didn’t keep Williams behind bars, however, instead allowing her to stay home on strict home detention. He imposed strict restrictions, including the ankle bracelet, and barred Williams from using electronics such as a tablet and smart phone, except through her third party custodian — in this case, her mother Wendy Williams. The defendant was ordered to use a flip phone only, and Wendy Williams was instructed to monitor all of the her daughter’s calls, as well as her use of the TV at their home.
In late May, Williams had asked Jackson to remove her from electronic location monitoring, via an electronic ankle bracelet. In her motion, attorney Ulrich cited Williams’ “good behavior and her employment” since her arrest, and subsequent home detention, since her arrest in January of 2021.
Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee, was not convinced.
“Given the evidence adduced at the time of defendant’s release establishing not only a risk of flight, but also a risk that the investigation would be obstructed, and given the supervising officer’s assessment that ‘removal of the location monitoring condition would be premature and unwarranted’ because the defendant ‘has not demonstrated a willingness to consistently comport to the release conditions,’ defendant’s motion will be denied,” Jackson wrote in her order.
Jackson acknowledged Williams’ assertion that she “has been on home detention since January 21, 2021,” and her request that the ankle bracelet be removed “[i]n consideration of her good behavior and her employment,” as well as what Ulrich described as Williams’ “full compliance” with her conditions of release.
Jackson said, however, that compliance in and of itself isn’t evidence of reliability — and pushed back on the defendant’s claim of being in full compliance.
“The fact that defendant has been released under conditions for a significant period of time does not demonstrate that the flight risk has been ameliorated or that there is some change of circumstances in this case,” Jackson wrote. “Moreover, the supervising Probation Officer is not at all satisfied that the defendant has been in full compliance or is a good candidate for a less restrictive plan.”
Jackson then pointed to several examples of Williams allegedly violating her pretrial conditions — including apparently asking her mother, serving as her custodian, to lie on her behalf — citing a report from the pretrial services and probation offices.
From the order:
On August 16, 2021, defendant was untruthful with Pretrial Services about the identity of an individual who visited her (“Individual 1”), and also directed her third party custodian – her mother – to conceal the truth about him;
On August 17, 2021, defendant’s mother “falsely informed Williams’s then-supervising probation / pretrial services officer that Williams was not working much the following few weeks due to a cousin visiting from North Carolina”;
On September 9, 2021, Pretrial Services observed a tablet case and charging cord inside of defendant’s car;
On September 10, 2021, Individual 1 told the FBI that he communicated with defendant via video chat, in violation of defendant’s conditions of release;
Defendant has been tardy in submitting her weekly schedule to her Pretrial Services Officer on multiple occasions, and
Defendant has been “late returning home after attending preapproved outings,” including on May 26, 2022. [citations removed.]
Williams is charged with civil disorder, aiding and abetting theft of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers, as well as a handful of disorderly conduct and trespassing misdemeanors. Earlier this month, Jackson denied Williams’ request to dismiss the civil disorder, obstruction, and two misdemeanor charges.
Read Jackson’s ruling here:
[Image via Dauphin County Prison, YouTube screengrab.]
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