WASHINGTON - A Capitol police officer has been indicted on charges that he helped a Jan. 6 riot suspect hide evidence that he’d participated in the attack on the Capitol.
Michael Riley faces two counts of obstruction for allegedly trying to help the suspect destroy evidence on social media platforms that he’d been involved in the riot.
He could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count if he's convicted.
The 25-year veteran of the Capitol police force was not at the Capitol during the attack following a rally featuring former President Donald Trump. According to court documents, he responded with a K-9 unit to a report of a pipe bomb.
Around the same time as the insurrection, two pipe bombs were discovered on Capitol Hill – one at the Republican National Committee headquarters, the other at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The suspect who placed the bombs has not been caught.
According to court documents, Riley befriended the suspect through a Facebook group dedicated to fishing. The suspect – who is not identified in the court documents – accepted Riley’s friend request on Facebook just days before the Capitol riot on Jan. 1.
On Jan. 7, the person allegedly posted selfies – including photos and videos – of himself inside the Capitol.
Court documents indicate that Riley sent a direct message to the person afterward, revealing that he’s a Capitol police officer who "agrees with your political stance."
Riley advised the person to remove the content revealing his involvement in the riot.
"Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out!" Riley said in the message.
According to the documents, Riley and the suspect continued to communicate on an almost daily basis – via Facebook and telephone.
Ultimately, the person told Riley he’d surrendered to the FBI, at which point the officer deleted all communications they’d shared.
More than 600 people have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot – which temporarily halted the electoral college vote certification process that would cement President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
In the days after the attack, scores of rioters flaunted their participation in social media posts that bragged about their ability to get inside the Capitol. But then many started realizing it could be used as evidence and began deleting it.
According to the Associated Press, at least 49 defendants are accused of trying to erase incriminating photos, videos and texts from phones or social media accounts documenting their conduct during the incident.
During the riot, both D.C. and Capitol police officers were attacked with flagpoles, hockey sticks, pepper spray and other implements.
Many law enforcement officers say they’re still experiencing trauma in the wake of the riot.
Riley appeared in court on Friday and was released. As part of his release agreement, he must surrender any firearms he owns.