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Former Capitol agent who sent notice on Jan. 6 that rioter was guilty of obstruction of justice

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WASHINGTON — A former Capitol police officer who alerted a Jan. 6 defendant to a post saying he was inside the Capitol Building was found guilty by a jury Friday of a misdemeanor of obstruction of justice.

Michael Riley was indicted on two charges of obstruction of justice in October 2021 and resigned from the Capitol Police Department shortly after. At his trial this month, federal prosecutors alleged that Riley “betrayed” his oath by sending Defendant Jacob Hiles a Jan. 6 Facebook message warning that the FBI and law enforcement officials intended to charge anyone who entered the building.

“[I’]ma capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance,” Riley wrote in a message he later deleted after Hiles’ arrest. “If you take away the part about being in the building that they are investigating correctly and everyone who was in the building gets charged. Watch out!”

US Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley poses outside headquarters after being named Officer of the Month for February 2011 by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

The jury was unable to pass judgment on the first count, which related to the message he sent to the rioter. But they found him guilty of a second charge for deleting his messages with Hiles after he learned that Hiles had talked to the FBI.

A juror, speaking anonymously after the verdict, told reporters that there was only one juror who would not convict Riley on both counts. It was 11-1 to a guilty plea on the first count, the judge said, and they couldn’t break the tie.

“We’ve tried every argument to convince them otherwise,” the juror said. Jurors had previously sent a note to the judge calling that juror “the standoff.”

Jacob Hiles, indicated by the red circle, at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Jacob Hiles, circled in red, in the Capitol on January 6, 2021.Department of Justice

The jury deliberated since Tuesday afternoon, by far the longest deliberations of any jury trial dated January 6. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, in Washington, DC, declared a mistrial on the first count of obstruction, and it’s not clear whether federal prosecutors will retry Riley on that count, as two convictions wouldn’t make much difference in sentencing. .

Riley took the stand for his own defense Monday, telling jurors he was “embarrassed” by the messages he sent to Hiles, but insisted he had no intention of hindering a grand jury proceeding.

“I was ashamed because I contacted him in the first place and allowed myself to be in a position like this,” Riley told jurors in court on Monday. “I never intended for this to happen.”

Defense attorney Christopher Macchiaroli argued during his closing on Tuesday that jurors may feel that Riley should have done something else and reported to Hiles, but said the case is “not about not reporting,” but whether Riley willfully initiate a grand jury trial. hindered.

“I said this was a complex matter. It is,’ argued Macchiaroli. “It is not easy, in this case you will have doubts. They will be reasonable. Follow them.”

US Assistant Attorney Mary Dohrmann argued that Riley’s intentions were clear, that he knew the FBI was involved in the Jan. 6 “mass investigation” and that the FBI uses federal grand juries.

“All you need to do… is use your common sense,” argued Dohrmann.

“He thought, how do I get this rioter, my Facebook friend, to be dragged into this grand jury investigation,” Dohrmann argued.

Riley, a former K-9 officer with the Capitol Police, was one of the first officers to respond to the Republican National Committee building near the Capitol on Jan. 6 after someone dropped a pipe bomb there, along with a bomb on the Democratic National Committee down the street.

Later that night, Riley and his dog helped sweep the Capitol so Congress could return to their joint session and confirm President Joe Biden’s victory over former President Donald Trump.

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