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Facial recognition used in arrest of 9/11 conspiracy theory lawyer accused of disarming officer on Jan. 6

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WASHINGTON — The FBI Thursday arrested a New York attorney accused of disarming an officer protecting the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, law enforcement sources told NBC News.

John O’Kelly of East Williston, New York, faces two felony charges — assault, resisting or obstructing officers, and civil disorder — along with four felony charges, according to court documents.

WNBC in New York observed law enforcement at O’Kelly’s home Thursday morning.

Authorities say that on Jan. 6, O’Kelly attempted to “disarm” a DC Metropolitan Police Department officer by grabbing a cop’s baton and “trying to get it out of the cop’s hands.” Body camera images cited in court documents showed the man identified as O’Kelly pushing a metal bike rack used to secure the perimeter of the Capitol.

John O’Kelly.U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia

O’Kelly, among online sleuths investigating the Jan. 6 attack, known as “MidWhiteCrisis,” was number 294 on the FBI’s Capitol Violence page, featuring images of more than 500 people wanted in connection with the attack. 6 January.

O’Kelly previously served as an attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, which believes the Twin Towers were brought down by pre-placed explosives. In a 2019 lawsuit, the group sought to force the Justice Department to submit their claims to a grand jury. A judge turned down the trial in March 2021, and an appeals court confirmed the decision of the lower court in August 2022.

Reached for comment on O’Kelly’s arrest, the group’s trial director, Mick Harrison, told NBC News: “John is no longer with us and we are not aware of the circumstances of the case you are asking about. .”

An FBI affidavit says that on July 8, 2021, the agency received a tip about O’Kelly in connection with January 6 from someone using “open source photo identification software” and identified O’Kelly as a likely match.

In response to this tip, the FBI reviewed photos of John O’Kelly of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and used facial recognition software to compare O’Kelly’s DMV photos with images captured on January 6, 2021 in the U.S. Capitol Recognition software indicated that O’Kelly’s DMV photo matched a second video taken in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by an unknown person filming with what appears to be a cell phone,” the statement said. FBI affidavit.

The FBI also said it viewed a photo of O’Kelly on the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry website and confirmed his identification by interviewing an “old friend of the O’Kelly family who John O’ Kelly personally”. FBI special agents went on to say they found a hotel reservation for O’Kelly outside Washington, DC, used phone records to confirm his identification, and went to O’Kelly’s home to supervise him to confirm his identification.

More than 870 people have been arrested by the FBI in connection with the January 6 attack. On Thursday, a 20-year-old North Carolina man enlisted in the Air Force pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers and was sentenced to prison until his conviction.

Zoe Richards contributed.

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