A defendant facing federal charges over the U.S. Capitol siege on Jan. 6 is facing the hard reality that it’s not a good idea to text one’s ex while engaged in dubious and potentially criminal conduct.
Accused pro-Trump rioter Richard Michetti is accused of texting his ex to tell her that she was a “moron” if she couldn’t see that the 2020 election was stolen — which is what Donald Trump himself repeatedly told a crowd before the violence erupted on that day in infamy. Michetti also appeared to claim he and other angry supporters of the 45th president were discriminated against because they were tear-gassed and pepper sprayed. Such responses by law enforcement were unfair, Michetti claimed, because leftists who protested Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2018 were not treated in similar fashion.
The ex, who is identified in a 10-page Statement of Facts merely as W1, came forward on Jan. 7 and “reported to law enforcement” that Michetti “sent several text messages and two videos” to her while participating in the siege. W1 turned everything — texts and videos — over to the FBI.
The relevant message chain started on Jan. 5. Michetti told his ex that he was getting off the train in D.C. and confirmed his arrival at 7:14 p.m.
The next day, Michetti and his ex appear to have engaged in a disagreement over what the election meant and what he needed to do about it.
According to federal court records, Michetti texted his ex at 2:06 p.m. on the day of the siege.
“It’s going down here we stormed the building they held us back with spray and teargas and paintballs,” he said.
“Gotta stop the vote it’s fraud this is our country,” he said three minutes later.
“[M]y eyes are burnitin [sic],” he later said. “[T]housands of people storming.”
He sent two videos at 2:44 p.m. One showed “rioters inside the Capitol Building,” the document explains; “[t]he other depicts a large interior room of the Capitol Building, where there were numerous protestors carrying various flags and walking around yelling.”
Yet Michetti sent another video which agents believe Michetti obtained from someone else. It also “show[ed] activities inside the Capitol Building.”
The text messages resumed a little less than two hours later.
“If you can’t see the election was stolen you’re a moron,” he said at 4:26 p.m. “This is our country do you think we live like kings because no one sacrificed anything?”
“[T]he vote was fraud and trump won but they won’t audit the votes,” he continued. “We are patriots we are not revolutionaries the other side is revolutionaries they want to destroy this country and they say it openly. When the left banged on the doors of congress when they congratulated for Brett kavanaugh no one got touched not one of them. We were outside and they were shooting tear gas and pepper spray.”
“They were shootin and throwin tear gas before we even were near the building,” he went on to say. “It’s public property.”
Later, at 6:04 p.m., the documents say Michetti started in again.
“I understand your point but what I’m saying is [W1’s name] the election was rigged and everyone knows it. All’s we wanted was an investigation that’s it. And they couldn’t investigate the biggest presidential race in history with mail in ballots who everyone knows is easy to fraud.”
“This is tyranny they say there and told us ‘we rigged the election and there’s nuthin you can do about it’ what do you think should be done?” he continued.
To corroborate the messages, the FBI affiant noted that cameras captured images of Michetti both inside and outside the Capitol using his cell phone. Additional images submitted to the FBI online showed Michetti on the premises. W1 identified Michetti in the photos the FBI obtained from tipsters. The FBI additionally obtained a copy of a receipt from the hotel Michetti where stayed. The hotel is one block from the Capitol.
Despite the topic becoming a frequent talking point among the right, Michetti’s attempts to draw an equivalence between the leftist protesters arrested during Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation and subsequent hearings and what occurred on Jan. 6 is awkward at best.
The Capitol Police said in 2018 that 101 people in total were arrested for several offenses related to the Kavanaugh protests. (Several other reports offered different numbers; the discrepancy may be the result of Kavanaugh’s tumultuous proceedings spanning several months.) Most of the 101 arrestees were accused of crowding, obstructing, or incommoding the facility, a misdemeanor offense punishable by 90 days in jail and a fine. Some were accused of unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor “punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or both.” One arrestee was charged with marijuana possession on top of crowding and obstructing the facility.
Those are not the same charges faced by many of the documented pro-Trump protesters rounded up by federal authorities since Jan. 6. The charges are different because the underlying conduct was different. According to one analysis:
USA TODAY could find no reference to [Kavanaugh] protesters damaging the Supreme Court or Capitol, which was open to the public in 2018. During the Jan. 6 riot, though, the Capitol and its visitors center were closed to the public, including tours led by members of Congress and their staff, according to a security notice sent to all members of Congress.
[ . . . ]
Although both demonstrations brought thousands of people to the Capitol, the Jan. 6 insurrection that followed a speech from then-President Donald Trump left both demonstrators and police injured or, in some cases, dead.
What’s ironic is that Michetti’s condemnation of the Kavanaugh protesters is a logical admission that his own actions should be also condemned. But his argument rests more fully on a false equivalence that the conduct and its outcomes were similar; they were not. Though Kavanaugh’s protesters disrupted hearings for a few seconds here and there, banged on the doors of the Supreme Court, and chanted “shut it down,” they did not actually shut down government proceedings for any relevant length of time nor force lawmakers to flee en masse for their own safety. No Kavanaugh protesters were charged with brandishing or throwing weapons.
The criminal offenses Michetti is accused of committing are illustrative of the distinction, especially with regard to shutting down an official proceeding. Michetti is accused of four counts: (1) knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority (punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine — or possibly more if certain enhancers apply); (2) violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds (punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine); (3) corruptly obstructing Congress (punishable by up to 20 years in prison); and (4) acting as a principal in the commission of an offense.
Read the charging documents below:
Matt Naham contributed to this report.
[Image via FBI screengrab]
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