A 25-year veteran of the Capitol Police Department faces charges for allegedly encouraging a Jan. 6 rioter to cover his tracks on social media after the insurrection.
Michael Angelo Riley, who joined the force dedicated to protecting the United States Capitol in 1996, has been indicted and arrested on two counts of obstruction of justice after telling one of his Facebook friends to delete incriminating photos that showed the pal inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, federal prosecutors alleged.
The indictment unsealed Friday states that Riley, who works in the USCP’s K-9 unit, was on duty during the Jan. 6 insurrection but was not stationed at the Capitol. The 50-year-old was one of the officers who “responded to reports of an explosive device near the Capitol complex” at the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee offices.
“Im [sic] a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance [sic],” Riley wrote in a Facebook message to the rioter, according to the indictment. “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. Just looking out!”
Prosecutors allege that Riley and the unnamed rioter became Facebook friends five days before the insurrection. While they “did not know each other... both were avid fisherman and members of fishing-related Facebook groups.”
Two law enforcement officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that the unnamed rioter, identified in court papers as “Person 1,” is Jacob Hiles, who was arrested in January after he allegedly stormed the Capitol in a sweatshirt emblazoned with “FUCK ANTIFA.” The Virginia charter boat operator pleaded guilty last month to illegally parading in the Capitol and will be sentenced in December.
The day after hundreds of MAGA rioters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote for President Joe Biden, Riley messaged his new Facebook friend about his posts from inside the government building, the indictment states. Among the photos were “selfie-type photographs, videos, and other commentary on Facebook admitting his presence and conduct” during the insurrection.
After Riley’s initial message encouraging the rioter to take down the posts, prosecutors allege they exchanged “dozens more Facebook direct messages,” in which the rioter also shared three videos from inside and outside the Capitol.
“I get it...it was a total shit show!!! Just wanted to give you a heads up...I’m glad you got out of there unscathed,” Riley told the rioter. “We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
In reality, according to the Capitol Police Union, over 140 officers were injured during the siege, ranging from burns to rib fractures to lacerations. Dozens of rioters have been charged with violently attacking officers with bear spray, police riot shields, and even flag poles.
Despite all that, the rioter told Riley that “he did not think he had done anything wrong,” according to the indictment. The Capitol cop allegedly replied: “The only thing I can see is if you went in the [sic] building and they have proof you will be charged. You could always articulate that you had no where to go, but thats for court.”
“Dont sweat it, they might choose to only charge certain people and not everyone. Personally i [sic] dont kno what they have decided, just know our guys and the FBI are going through everything,” Riley added.
Riley and the rioter continued to talk for several days, the indictment states, even after news came out about Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick’s death. Prosecutors state that on Jan. 9, another person contacted Riley about the rioter, sharing his Facebook livestream that showed he’d been “smoking an unknown substance” inside the building.
“Yep I know…,” Riley answered, according to the indictment.
On Jan. 13, after frequent communication, Riley advised his new friend to “get off of social media.” Days later, the rioter allegedly sent Riley a news article indicating that he had been charged for his role in the siege, alongside the caption “fake news.”
“Theyre [sic] arresting dozens of people aday. Everyone that was in the building, engaged in violent acts, or destruction of property...and theyre all being charged federally with felonies,” Riley said, before giving his phone number to discuss the matter further.
After a 23-minute phone call, prosecutors state the rioter told two other people that he had spoken to “capitol police” and that he was confident that he was only going to be charged with trespassing. The indictment states that after the call, Riley even told the rioter that the next time he visits Washington, D.C, he could “stay at my house on the shore for free and bring your daughter to the museums.”
“If you want to see the capitol building, lets [sic] do it legally next time...I know a guy who can get you a tour...lol,” Riley said. “Its behind you now...lessoned learned! Just ask your attorney whats next.”
On Jan. 19, the rioter was arrested for his role in the riots. During his interview with federal authorities, the rioter said he had been speaking with Riley—an admission he later shared with the Capitol cop.
“That’s fine,” Riley said, before allegedly deleting all his Facebook messages with the rioter.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Capitol Police Chief Tom Manager called the allegations against his officer “very serious” and revealed that his department was notified of the investigation “several weeks ago.” On Friday, Riley was placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation.
“We need to wait until all of the facts of the case are known and this officer has been given the opportunity to defend himself,” Capitol Union Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said in a Friday statement. “In this country, there is a presumption of innocence. All I ask is that everyone respect the process and let it proceed before rendering a judgment on this officer.”