“Blocking of justice is a very serious allegation. The department was notified of this investigation several weeks ago, “said U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger. “After the arrest, the officer was put on administrative leave until the case was closed. The USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility will then open an administrative inquiry. “
In the wake of the Capitol attack, U.S. Capitol police revealed that three dozen officers had been investigated for possible misconduct and six had been suspended. But most cases were ultimately considered unfounded.
But Riley’s arrest adds a new and worrying element to the ongoing investigations into Capitol police’s response to riots. Some Democrats had long suspected that some Capitol police officers may have sympathized with the riots and pointed to selfies, some were seen while the crowd roared about the Capitol. But these allegations had not been substantiated. Riley’s case is the first concrete example.
The tax documents also suggest that the FBI was aware of the officer’s contact with “Person 1” in January. But Manger revealed that he first learned about the case before in recent weeks, and the officer continued to work in the department until he was arrested. It is unclear why there was a delay in communicating this evidence, allowing Riley to continue working with the Capitol Police force for more than nine months after January 6th.
Riley appeared for the first time in federal court Friday afternoon before Judge Michael Harvey. He is scheduled to appear again on Oct. 26 for Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
Gus Papathanasiou, president of the Capitol Police Union, urged people to wait for more facts to emerge – as well as Riley’s defense – before passing judgment on Riley.
“In this country, there is a presumption of innocence. The only thing I ask for is that everyone respects the process and lets it continue before sentencing this officer,” he said in a statement.
According to prosecutors, Riley had never encountered the riots he later communicated with, but the two shared a love of fishing and were both in the same fishing-related Facebook groups. Riley, according to the indictment, saw the alleged rebel’s Facebook post certifying being inside the Capitol and decided to make contact on January 7th.
“I am a police officer in the capital who agrees with your political position,” Riley wrote according to the indictment. “Take part in being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building will be charged. Just look out!”
Prosecutors say the couple exchanged dozens of messages after that until the alleged riots were arrested on January 19.
Riley subsequently deleted all his contacts with “person 1” and sent a scolding message on January 21, in which he criticized him for smoking inside the Capitol.
While Riley in a message noted to the unnamed rioter who suspected that the Capitol police had “over 50 officers injured, some pretty bad”, about 10 days after the riots, Riley invited the person to join him in his home in the future and to return to the Capitol, claims the indictment, which was returned by a grand jury in Washington Thursday.
“Next time you want to come to DC, just call me, you can stay for free in my house on land and bring your daughter to the museums,” Riley wrote according to the indictment. “If you want to see the capital building, let’s make it legal next time …. I know a guy who can get you a tour … lol.”
Despite the U.S. attorney’s decision not to name “Person 1,” the details of the case closely match information from defendant Jacob Hiles on January 6. Hiles was arrested Jan. 19 and is a boat captain in Virginia Beach known for his love of fishing. That statement of fact notes in his case that he smoked an “unidentified substance” inside the Capitol on January 6th. Hiles pleaded guilty to an offense related to his conduct on January 6 last month. He is due to be sentenced in December.
Hiles’ lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.