A U.S. Capitol police officer was arrested Friday for obstruction of justice charges related to communications with another man later criminally charged for participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot by Trump supporters.
The cop, Michael Riley, allegedly deleted Facebook messages to and from that person a day after the other person was arrested on Jan. 19, and previously had urged the man to delete information from that own man’s Facebook page which showed him inside the Capitol during the invasion, according to a charging document.
The deletions occurred after the other man told Riley that “they took my phone and downloaded everything” and that the FBI “was very curious” about the duo’s communications on the heels of the riot, the document says.
Riley, who has served with the Capitol Police for nearly 25 years, appeared later Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington, where he is charged with two counts of obstruction, each of which has a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
A judge allowed Riley to remain free without bail on the condition that he does not possess any weapons. The cop, who did not enter a plea, also was barred from having contact with a certain group of individuals, who were not identified publicly by prosecutors.
A Capitol Police spokesman said that Riley, who most recently worked as a K-9 technician, has been placed on administrative leave pending the resolution of his criminal case.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger in a statement, said, “Obstruction of Justice is a very serious allegation.”
“The Department was notified about this investigation several weeks ago. Upon his arrest, the officer was placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the case,” Manger said. “The USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility will then open an administrative investigation.”
A grand jury indictment against Riley says that the other man on Jan. 1 accepted a Facebook friend request from the police officer.
NBC News, citing law enforcement officials, reported that the other man is Jacob Hiles, a Virginia fishing charter boat operator who pleaded guilty last month to illegally parading in the Capitol.
That man and Riley “did not know each other, but both were avid fisherman and members of fishing-related Facebook groups,” the indictment says.
Five days later, on Jan. 6, a mob of backers of then-President Donald Trump invaded the Capitol complex, disrupting the ongoing confirmation of President Joe Biden’s election by a joint session of Congress. Among the rioters who illegally entered the Capitol was the man who had accepted Riley’s friend request, the indictment says.
Riley was not on duty inside the Capitol building that day but did respond to reports of an explosive device found near the complex that day, according to the indictment.
Five people died in connection with the riot, including a Capitol police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died on Jan. 7.
On Jan. 7, Riley contacted the other man via a Facebook direct message after that other person posted selfie photos, videos and commentary on Facebook revealing “his presence and conduct inside the U.S. Capitol” the prior day.
Riley, who had never communicated directly with the man previously, wrote, “Hey … im a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance,” the indictment says.
“Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged,” Riley allegedly wrote. “Just looking out!”
The indictment says that Riley and the man ultimately exchanged “dozens more Facebook direct messages” on Jan. 7, and that the other person shared three videos with Riley showing that person “outside and inside the U.S. Capitol.”
“I get it … it was a total s— show!!!,” Riley responded at one point, the indictment alleges.
“Just wanted to give you a heads up … Im glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
Another person allegedly messaged Riley about the man he had been communicating with. The messages included a video of the other man’s Facebook live-stream from the Capitol on Jan. 6, “which showed Person 1 smoking an unknown substance inside the Capitol building,” as a well as a screenshot of the video showing the other man “inhaling from a hand-rolled cigarette.”
“Yep I know,” Riley allegedly responded to the second person.
The indictment says the duo continued communicating over the next several days, and that on Jan. 13 the other person told the cop that the other man “was being discussed on social media because of his conduct on January 6,” according to the indictment.
“Get off of social media,” Riley responded, the charging document alleges.
When the other man was criminally charged within the next several days, he sent Riley a news article about the case, the indictment says, adding that the other person called the article “Fake news” in a Facebook direct message.
The two of them later spoke on the telephone, the indictment says.
“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 says.
When that man sent Riley messages with more information about the criminal charges, Riley responded, “Next time you want to come to DC just call me, you can stay at my house on the shore or free and bring your daughter to the museums,” according to the charging document.
“If you want to see the capitol building, lets do it legally next time,” Riley allegedly wrote. “I know a guy who can get you a tour … lol. Its behind you know … lesson learned. Just ask your attorney whats next.”
The other man was arrested on Jan. 19 by the FBI and interviewed about his actions.
“The fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you if they havent already asked about you they are gonna,” the man wrote Riley the next day, according to the indictment. “They took my phone and downloaded everything.”
Riley responded, “Thats fine,” the indictment says.
But the cop soon after “deleted all of his Facebook direct messages to and from Person 1,” according to the indictment.
On Jan. 21 — nearly two weeks after receiving and acknowledging a video and a photo showing the other man smoking inside the Capitol — Riley sent that man a direct message saying that “another mutual friend was talking about you the other night.”
“I tried to defend you but then he showed me a video of you in the Capitol smoking weed and acting like a moron,” Riley allegedly wrote. “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,” Riley wrote, according to the indictment. “I was so mad last night I deleted all your post, but I wanted to text you this morning and let you know that I will no longer be conversing with you.”