Capitol Police officer faces charges connected to Jan. 6 attack

Indictment: Officer warned Capitol invader to remove online evidence of being present Jan. 6

Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley faces charges he obstructed the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)
Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley faces charges he obstructed the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)
Posted October 15, 2021 at 3:45pm

A veteran Capitol Police officer faces charges he obstructed the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol related to the deletion of Facebook information, including messages between him and a man who later was charged with entering the building that day.

Michael A. Riley, an officer with the K-9 unit who has been at the agency for more than 25 years, was arrested Friday and made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Riley is the first Capitol Police officer charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, where a mob inspired by then-President Donald Trump broke into the building and attacked and injured multiple officers, ultimately interrupting Congress’ counting of the Electoral College votes from the presidential race.

In one charge, Riley is accused of directing the man to take down from Facebook records related to that man's conduct at the Capitol on Jan. 6 with the intent of making them unavailable for the investigation into the attack. And in the other, Riley is accused of deleting his Facebook direct communications with the man “to impair their use in the federal investigation."

A magistrate released Riley when the government did not seek pretrial detention. His next hearing is Oct. 26.

Riley was on duty that day but was not inside the Capitol during the attack, according to the indictment unsealed Friday on two counts of obstruction of justice.

The next day, Riley initiated contact with a man on Facebook who had posted “selfie”-style photographs, videos and other commentary that admitted he had been inside the building during the attack, the indictment states.

They had not communicated before. But both were avid fishermen and members of fishing-related Facebook groups, and Riley wrote to say he was a Capitol police officer “who agrees with your political stance,” the indictment states.

“Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to charged. Just looking out!” Riley wrote in that initial message.

After exchanging other messages over days, and amid some social media discussion about the man, Riley warned the man on Jan. 13 to “get off of social media,” the indictment states.

On Jan. 16, Riley spoke with the person for 23 minutes on the phone, and the person sent two text messages that said he had spoken to “capitol police” and the charges against him were likely to involve only trespassing, the indictment states.

Riley sent him direct messages that day with more information, and offered to have the man stay at his house for free, the indictment states. And Riley added, “If you want to see the capitol building, lets do it legally next time… I know a guy who can get you a tour… lol.”

Three days later, the FBI arrested the man on charges he unlawfully entered the Capitol building. And the next day the man told Riley in Facebook direct messages that he had turned himself in and that the “fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you,” the indictment states.

“if they havent already asked you about me they are gonna,” the man told Riley, according to the indictment. “They took my phone and downloaded everything.”

Riley deleted all of his Facebook direct messages with the man on Jan. 20, and then on Jan. 21 sent the man a direct message that said he had been shown a video of the man smoking weed in the Capitol, the indictment said.

Riley wrote that he “felt like a moron” for believing the man’s story that he had been pushed into the building with no other choice, and said he wouldn’t be communicating with the man any more.

That message was 12 days after Riley had received and acknowledged on Facebook a video and photo of the man smoking in the Capitol, the indictment states.