Capitol Police Officer Arrested for Covering Up Jan 6 Evidence
Michael Riley advised rioters on deleting evidence they took part in the attack
A United States Capitol Police Officer is the latest person to be indicted for his role in the January 6th attack. The officer, Michael Riley, is being accused of obstructing justice when he helped insurrectionists hide evidence that could have been used to prosecute them for their role in the attack.
According to court documents, Riley is accused of tipping off someone who participated in the riot by telling them to remove posts from Facebook that showed the person inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. The 25-year veteran allegedly messaged the person in question and telling them that he was an officer with the police force who “agrees with your political stance,” an indictment against him says. Riley allegedly sent dozens of messages to the insurrectionist, who was not named in the indictment. In these messages, he advised the person on which photos and videos to remove and tipped them off on how the FBI was identifying people involved in the attack.
The news that Riley was arrested was especially disheartening as many of his fellow officers received significant injuries during the attack. One officer, Brian Sicknick died from injuries sustained from the attack. Dozens were beaten with poles, bats, and other objects, and some were shocked with Tasers or stun guns. Since the attack, four officers have committed suicide.
More than 600 people are currently facing charges for their involvement in the attack. Many were identified thanks to footage that they shared on social media, including bragging about the ease with which they took the Capitol.
According to the indictment, Riley told the rioter that the scene was a “total s---show.” “I’m glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad,” the officer wrote. The insurrectionist replied to Riley saying that he believed he did nothing wrong to which Riley responded, “The only thing I can see is if you went into the building and they have proof you will be charged. You could always articulate that you had nowhere to go, but that’s for court.”
Riley continued to converse with the person throughout January talking about fishing before he told the person to get off of social media. “They’re arresting dozens of people a day,” he wrote, according to the posting. “Everyone that was in the building. Engaged in violent acts or destruction of property and they’re all being charged federally with felonies.”
While the insurrectionists may have thought that by deleting the picture or deleting their account, police and the FBI still have ways to get the information. This is because social media companies will preserve this data especially after an event like the January 6th attacks. According to the AP, authorities routinely ask those companies to preserve the records until they get court orders to view the posts.
Riley is the first Capitol Police Officer to be charged in relation to his actions on and after the attack. In the days after the attack, Capitol police were criticized for not doing enough to protect the building and the legislators in it. An internal investigation found six cases that warranted disciplinary action. 38 investigations were opened into 26 officers. It is unclear if Riley was being investigated, especially since his criminal behavior appears to have happened after the attack.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said that his department was made aware of the investigation a few weeks ago at which point they placed Riley on administrative leave. Manger called the indictment a “very serious allegation” and said the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was also opening an internal investigation.