Michael Angelo Riley Spurns Plea Deal in Jan. 6 Case
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U.S. Capitol Police Officer Spurns Plea Offer in Case Accusing Him of Obstructing Jan. 6 Probe

U.S. Capitol Police sign

A U.S. Capitol police officer charged with obstructing the Jan. 6 investigation by advising a Facebook friend who participated in the siege to scrub incriminating social media posts allowed a plea offer to expire, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

“Deep Regret, Shame and Remorse”

Insisting that his 26 years of service to the U.S. Capitol Police have been dedicated to pursuing justice and not obstructing it, Officer Michael Angelo Riley denies the two federal charges leveled against him in October. Prosecutors claim that he helped a now-convicted Jan. 6 defendant named Jacob Hiles try to cover up his role breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A charter boat captain who banned Democrats from his fishing vessels, Hiles pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count in September. Riley’s indictment followed a month later in October, and court papers identified Hiles only as “Person 1” at the time. Prosecutors say that the pair bonded over the mutual love of fishing and that Riley told him that he “agrees with your political stance.”

Hiles was subsequently sentenced to two years of probation, but Riley’s case remains unresolved.

On Friday, Department of Justice attorney Molly Gaston asked a federal judge to set a trial date.

“We believe that discovery is substantially complete,” Gaston said.

Disputing that, Riley’s attorney Christopher Macchiaroli filed a 17-page motion on Thursday attacking Hiles, whom he describes as the government’s cooperator. Prosecutors have denied that Hiles is a cooperating witness, and Hiles’s plea agreement does not contain a cooperation subheading.

“He pleaded guilty before this court and admitted that he traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally ‘to be there when history happen[ed],’ to ‘participate in anarchy,’ ‘to smoke weed in government buildings,’ and — ‘the real reason — ‘to intimidate congress,'” Macchiaroli wrote.

According to the motion, Hiles received a non-jail sentence in part because of what the government described as his “exceptional cooperation” and what the fisherman described in court as his “deep regret, fear, shame, and remorse” over his role in the Jan. 6 attack.

“Tens of Thousands of American Patriots”

On the first anniversary of Jan. 6, however, Hiles apparently told an entirely different story.

“Today is a special anniversary to me. One year ago was a day that was unlike any other day in America’s history,” Hiles wrote on Jan. 6, 2022, according to Riley’s defense brief. “Tens of thousands of American Patriots descended upon the Capitol to stand up for their beliefs.”

Jacob Hiles's Facebook post on first anniversary of Jan. 6

As quoted in the brief, Hiles wrote that “believed then” and still does “to this day that the 2020 election was rigged and our democracy was stolen.”

Though the post claims that he “took responsibility for my actions,” Hiles also allegedly lashed out at the Fourth Estate.

“The problem is the media,” Hiles wrote, according to the brief. “The media is completely radicalized and spread nothing but propaganda. The government doesn’t have to fear the media because it has weaponozed (sic) the media for their benefit.”

Riley’s motion contends that he “engaged in acts of heroism,” and he denied knowledge of any investigation that he allegedly tried to obstruct. He shared a letter as an exhibit showing four members of the Capitol Police Board congratulating him on his retirement and praising his “duty, professionalism and dedication” on Dec. 2, 2021, long after his federal indictment.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee, described the defense motion as full of indignation and potentially misleading. She suggested that the defense attorney’s use of brackets in the filing tried to “pull a fast one” on her.

She did not, however, issue a ruling on a motion to compel, setting a date for a follow-up hearing on Jan. 21.

As for setting a trial date, Judge Jackson noted: “I have several incarcerated defendants on my caseload.”

“We need to deal with the detained people first,” she added later.

Riley was granted pre-trial release after his arrest without objection by the government.

Read the defense motion, below:

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.