According to court documents, Michael A. Riley is accused of tipping off a person who participated in the riot. He told them to delete posts from Facebook that showed the person inside Capitol during January 6th attack.
Riley, 50, appeared in Washington federal court and was released on several conditions. He had to surrender all firearms and travel within the U.S. only with permission from a judge. He was directed to return to court in the latter part of this month.
Riley responded to a call about a pipe bomb incident on Jan. 6. He has been a Capitol Police officer since 1975. A message was sent by Riley telling the person that he was an officer of the Capitol Police force and "agrees" with their political stance.
Indictment reveals how Riley sent numerous messages to an unidentified person encouraging them to delete incriminating videos and photos, and explaining how the FBI was investigating to find rioters.
Riley's lawyer did not respond immediately to a reporter's request for comment.
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger stated that the department had learned about the Riley investigation several weeks ago, and placed Riley on administrative leave after his arrest Friday. Manger described the indictment as a "very serious allegation", and stated that the Office of Professional Responsibility of the department was also conducting an internal investigation.
The arrest of the officer and his accusation that he was an active duty Capitol Police officer trying to block the investigation into the attack are particularly noteworthy because many of his fellow officers were brutally beaten during the insurrection. Numerous police officers were left with bruises and bloody faces as pro-Trump rioters charged into the Capitol. They quickly overtook the police force.
One officer was repeatedly shocked with a stungun until he suffered a heart attack. Another was left foaming at his mouth, screaming for help. Rioters crushed another officer between two doors, and then hit him with their own weapon.
In the Jan. 6 attack in which a mob loyally to President Donald Trump stormed Capitol and battled police to stop certification of the election victory for Joe Biden, more than 600 people were charged.
Thousands of rioters took part in social media posts claiming they were able to enter the Capitol. Many began to realize that it could be used for evidence and started to delete it.
A Associated Press review of court records revealed that at least 49 defendants were accused of trying to erase incriminating photographs, videos, and texts from smartphones or social media accounts. This was their conduct during the pro-Trump mob stormed Congress. It briefly disrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.
Experts believe that the effort to clean out the social media accounts revealed a desperate desire to manipulate evidence after these people realized they were in serious trouble. It can be used as evidence of guilt, and it can make it difficult to negotiate plea bargains and request leniency at sentencing.
Riley said to the rioter that the scene had been a "total show." According to the complaint, Riley said that more than 50 officers were injured, some quite badly."
The rioter stated that he didn’t believe he had done anything wrong through messaging. Riley replied, according to court documents: "The only thing you can see is if your went into the building and they have evidence you will be charged. Although you could say that there was nowhere for you to go, that is not legal.
After they had talked about their love for fishing in January, Riley advised the man to stop using social media.
According to the posting, he wrote that "they're arresting many people per day." "Everyone who was in the building. They were all charged federally with felonies for engaging in violent acts of destruction of property.
It's not as simple as deleting digital content from your phone, removing posts on social media or closing down accounts. Even after an account is closed, investigators were able to request digital content from social media companies. The posts made on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms can be recovered for a period of time. Authorities routinely request that these companies preserve the records until court orders are issued.
Riley was the first Capitol officer to be charged for an insurrection-related crime, despite initial criticisms that Capitol police didn't do enough to stop the rioters.
However, several former and current police officers were also arrested for riot-related offenses. This included two Virginia officers who took a photo of the attack. An off-duty Drug Enforcement Administration agent was arrested in July for posing for photos outside the Capitol and flashing his DEA badge.
Others law enforcement officers were also investigated for being present at the Capitol on that day, or at Trump's rally prior to the riot. A January Associated Press survey of law enforcement officers nationwide revealed that at least 31 officers from 12 states were being questioned by their supervisors about their conduct in the District of Columbia. They could also face criminal charges for taking part in the riot.
After an internal review of officer behavior following the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, Capitol Police reported that six officials had been recommended for disciplinary action. Police stated in a statement that the Office of Professional Responsibility of the department had opened 38 investigations and was able identify 26 of those officers. In 20 cases, there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
It's not clear if Riley was one of the officers who were referred to disciplinary action.