When Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell set conditions of release for accused Jan. 6 Capitol breach defendant Rachel Powell in February, she included an interesting provision in an order which required that Powell “must wear a mask whenever she leaves her residence.” Yet a video posted to a Pennsylvania bookstore’s Facebook page appears to show a woman who looks a lot like Powell inside the store wearing a mask made of mesh or netting which contains large gaps — thus rendering the mask utterly pointless as a protective measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus. If, indeed, the video does portray Powell, the mask could test the boundaries of Judge Howell’s order.
The video was posted to the Facebook page of Mr. Bookman’s, a used book store in Western Pennsylvania owned by Ben and Christy Wilkinson. At the start of the three-minute video, the woman who appears to be Powell points the camera at herself and says, “Good morning everybody, welcome to Mr. Bookman’s page.” She then flips the camera to focus on a woman wearing a white cardigan and a red “Make America Great Again” hat who prepares to announce the winners of a store raffle.
Although the woman filming the raffle is only on camera for about eight seconds, two things are clear: she looks nearly identical to recent photographs of Powell, and her “mask” is less than protective. Indeed, the woman’s mouth can be seen moving through the obvious gaps in the mask’s open mesh covering.
Another woman seen wearing a white cardigan and red MAGA hat, identified as Christy, was not wearing a mask at all.
The clip was originally posted to the store’s page on March 31 at 10:51 a.m. Law&Crime reached out to the store via email on Friday at 2:13 p.m. asking whether Powell was an employee of the store and whether it was her in the posted clip. Mr. Bookman’s did not respond to the inquiry, but the video was quickly removed from the store’s Facebook page at some time prior to 3:02 p.m.
Law&Crime also contacted Powell’s attorney, Michael Engle, and referenced a copy of the video.
“Thank you for sending this to me,” Engle responded. “I have to look into this matter.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said the office declined to comment on the matter.
According to Judge Howell’s order, “violating any of the foregoing conditions of release may result in the immediate issuance of a warrant” for Powell’s arrest, revocation of release, detention, forfeiture of bond, and “a prosecution for contempt of court.”
It is unclear if prosecutors or the court will investigate the matter of whether the recording indeed shows Powell or whether any concomitant punishment is necessary.
According to a report from local news outlet The Sharon Herald, a woman directly identified as Powell previously joined Mr. Bookman owner Ben Wilkinson to attend a May 2020 demonstration protesting COVID-19 health regulations.
“We are all essential, because we all have to feed our families,” said Powell in that report. “I don’t think the governor has the right to tell people not to work.”
The newspaper indicated Powell had recently been furloughed from her sales role with Cherish Creamery.
A photograph of Powell at the May 2020 protest ran in a subsequent Herald article concerning Powell’s participation in the U.S. Capitol siege of January 6, 2021. That image showed Powell speaking into a bullhorn and carrying a sign that read “The mask is a symbol of our enslavement. Learn the facts.”
Powell was arrested in February for her alleged role in the Jan. 6th U.S. Capitol breach. Viral video of the siege showed a woman, initially dubbed “Bullhorn Lady” by the internet and later identified as Powell by federal prosecutors, directing other rioters with a bullhorn and giving them information about the Capitol layout. Prosecutors allege that Powell, who was also notably wearing a pink hat, was one of the people who used a large pipe as an impromptu battering ram to break windows at the Capitol Complex.
“Listen, if somebody doesn’t help and direct people, then do more people die?” she said in reference to the bullhorn. “That’s all I’m going to say about that. I can’t say anymore. I need to talk to an attorney.”
Powell currently faces several charges, including entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon, obstructing an official proceeding, depredation of government property, and violent entry or disorderly conduct.
Law&Crime was unable to independently identify Powell as the woman seen in the Facebook video.
Powell has been seen wearing a mask before, albeit briefly.
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