WASHINGTON — A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted for obstruction of justice. The two-count indictment alleges the officer advised a Facebook friend to scrub incriminating evidence of the person’s participation in the Jan. 6 riots.
Officer Michael Angelo Riley has more than 25 years on the job. But now the police veteran has been accused of helping an unnamed individual—known only as “Person 1” in his indictment—scrub his digital trail the day after the riot occurred at the U.S. Capitol, Law & Crime reported.
Authorities say that Riley, 50, was taken into custody on Friday. He said that he understood the charges against him during his initial appearance in court in the afternoon.
According to the indictment, “On January 7, 2021, through a Facebook direct message, Riley initiated contact with Person 1, who had posted ‘selfie’-style photographs, videos, and other commentary on Facebook admitting his presence and conduct inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Riley and Person 1 had never communicated directly before.”
Prosecutors claim that Riley told this person: “Hey [Person 1], im a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. 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 accepted this person’s friend request on Jan. 1. They did not know each other beyond social media. They both reportedly had mutual interests as “avid fishermen” and as “members of fishing-related Facebook groups,” the indictment states.
Riley and the unnamed person exchanged dozens of more Facebook messages that day, and “Person 1” allegedly shared three videos from the Capitol that day—both outside and inside the building, prosecutors say.
“I get it…it was a total shit show!!! Just wanted to give you a heads up,” Riley allegedly wrote. “Im [sic] glad you got out of there unscathed We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
“When Person 1 stated that he did not think he had done anything wrong, Riley responded, ‘The only thing I can see is if you went in the building and they have proof you will be charged. You could always articulate that you had no where to go, but thats for court,’” according to the indictment.
Riley allegedly added: “Dont [sic] sweat it, they might choose to only charge certain people and not everyone. Personally i dont know what they have decided, just know our guys and the FBI are going through everything.”
Prosecutors claim that Riley’s online conversations with “Person 1” continued throughout the month, and Riley allegedly continued to urge him to “Get off of social media.”
The FBI arrested “Person 1” on Jan. 19. Although he was arrested, prosecutors claim that event did not dissuade their cordial conversations, Law & Crime reported.
On Jan. 20, the recently arrested “Person 1” allegedly told Riley via a Facebook message: “The fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you if they havent already asked you about me they are gonna. They took my phone and downloaded everything.”
“That fine,” Riley reportedly replied.
Prosecutors claim Riley deleted his Facebook correspondence with “Person 1” that day, and a day later he allegedly sent an indignant Facebook message denying knowledge of his actions.
“Hey [Person 1], another mutual friend was talking about you last night,” Riley was recorded writing on Jan. 21. “I tried to defend you but then he showed me a video of you in the Capitol smoking weed and acting like a moron (something Riley had previously seen). I have to say, i was shocked and dumbfounded, since your story of getting pushed in the building with no other choice now seems not only false but is a complete lie. I feel like a moron for believing you.. I deleted all your post [sic], but i wanted to text you this morning and let you know that I will no longer be conversing with you.”
Riley was released from custody after his Friday appearance in federal court in Washington D.C. He has travel restrictions, is barred from communicating with potential witnesses, and prohibited from possessing a firearm. It was unclear when is due back in court.