Mercer resident charged in Capitol riot
Hearing set Monday for man from Warren also suspected in DC disorder
Staff and wire report
A Pennsylvania woman from nearby Mercer County has been charged with helping to storm the U.S. Capitol, with federal authorities saying she is the person in a pink hat shown in video directing others through a bullhorn about how to gain further control of the building, authorities said Friday.
Rachel Marie Powell was taken into custody Thursday night in New Castle in Lawrence County, about 30 miles from her home in Sandy Lake, said Margaret Philbin, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh.
Prosecutors have asked that she remain in custody, asserting she might otherwise flee.
Her lawyer, Michael Engle, of Philadelphia, said Powell is not a flight risk and has neither the means nor the desire to leave her young children.
Engle declined to address the allegations, saying he was reviewing them ahead of a hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon.
He said Powell turned herself in once she knew charges were pending against her.
“She wanted to turn herself in to face these charges and address them head-on,” Engle said.
An FBI agent’s affidavit on a warrant issued Wednesday said that after a group inside a Capitol room stated they needed a plan, Powell told them “that they should ‘coordinate together if you are going to take this building.’ She also notes that they ‘have another window to break.'”
Powell, 40, a mother of eight, also is accused of using a large pipe to break a Capitol window.
The warrant lists charges of violent entry or disorderly conduct, obstruction, depredation of government property, entering a restricted building and being in that building with a dangerous weapon.
WARREN MAN’S CASE
In a related matter, a hearing is set for Monday for a Warren man who is among three Ohioans charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, the day the joint session of Congress was interrupted during the Electoral College vote count when protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Stephen M. Ayres, 38, of Warren, was arrested last month after tips, including at least one from an Ayres’ family member, led FBI agents to social media posts in which investigators said he and another man had identified themselves by his first and last names. The other man, who was not identified in a separate affidavit, stated he and Ayres “walked right into the Capitol building” after antifa “breached the door” so it was left open. The video was recorded later in the day Jan. 6, reportedly in a D.C. hotel room.
The federal court set Ayres’ bond at $20,000 and ordered his release following the initial appearance in Cleveland. He is set for a court video conference 1 p.m. Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, where future court proceedings will take place.
As part of his bond release, Ayres is prohibited from leaving northern Ohio, unless for a court hearing in the case.
Ayres was arrested on preliminary charges of obstruction of justice, illegally entering the Capitol and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. Visited at home, he declined to comment to this newspaper last month.
The FBI on Jan. 10 reviewed the almost 8-minute-long video that depicted three individuals, including Ayres, describing their experiences inside the Capitol. The same video was posted to YouTube on Jan. 7 to an account listed to “Johnny Anonymous” and labeled “It was all ANTIFA breaking into the Capitol 1-6-2021.”
The other man in the video stated the video was being made “back at the hotel,” the affidavit states, where they were “safe,” but they had been “all at the Capitol Building” and they wanted to “share what really happened today.” He added that antifa breached the building and were the ones who were violent and breaking doors and windows. The man also stated the police “escorted” them from one end of the building to the other, according to the video.
The FBI interviewed a witness on Jan. 16 who had told them about Ayres’ presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. That witness was one of Ayres’ family members, according to the affidavit. The witness had told the FBI he had watched Ayres’ streaming live video on Jan. 6, and in it, the witness said Ayres was acting “like he was at war.”
At one point during the livestream video, the witness stated Ayres said the Jan. 6 incident was “just the beginning.” On Jan. 19, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Robin Merriweather authorized a search warrant for Ayres’ Facebook account.
The affidavit also states law enforcement reviewed surveillance footage from within the Capitol of the civil unrest and found Ayres and another man moving together outside in the crowd and then together inside the Capitol building.