A look at Ohioans facing charges in the US Capitol siege
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More than 400 supporters of former President Donald Trump have been charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, including members of far-right extremist groups. At least 24 of those cases, including one announced Thursday, involve Ohio residents identified through social media posts and surveillance footage and often turned in by friends or family members.
A look at some of the Ohioans charged in the U.S. Capitol breach:
Kenneth Joseph Owen Thomas, 38, of East Liverpool, Ohio, was arrested in Huntsville, Alabama, on preliminary charges that include assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and engaging in physical violence on U.S. Capitol grounds.
Federal court documents state Thomas convened a “Maga Caravan” from Virginia to D.C. on or around midnight on Jan. 6.
Hours later, Metropolitan Police Department body camera footage showed Thomas advancing toward officers on the terrace of the Capitol and pushing against their shields, according to the complaint. The footage also showed Thomas punching and striking officers with his fist and forearm at least twice while holding a cell phone and recording the event.
Thomas “was one of the first to come in and start hitting (and) pushing officers on the line,” law enforcement officers told the FBI.
Federal agents were able to identify him after a neighbor and an online investigative group tipped them to Thomas’ personal Facebook page and a 50-minute YouTube video that captured the events of Jan. 6, court records stated.
The northeast Ohio resident had his first court appearance in the Northern District of Alabama on May 26. His federal public defender, Kevin Butler, declined to comment Thursday.
John Wright, 54, of Canton, was arrested on preliminary charges of violent entry, disorderly conduct, obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, obstruction of justice and Congress, and making a false statement to federal agents.
Four separate witnesses reported that Wright participated in the Capitol protest, and identified posts Wright made on Facebook, according to a federal criminal complaint.
“We are in the house. All we got to do is get the door down now,” Wright said in a Facebook video posted Jan. 6, the complaint said.
“SET ON NICE BENCH IN ROTUNDA AND HAD A SMOKE,” Wright said in a Facebook messenger conversation afterward, according to the criminal complaint. Court records did not list an attorney for Wright.
“It’s not about overthrowing the government. It’s about creating a new party,” Wright told The Repository in a Jan. 7 interview, the paper reported.
Caleb Jones, 23, of Columbus was arrested on preliminary charges of illegally entering a restricted building, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Jones is accused of entering the Capitol by scaling an exterior wall, according to a federal criminal complaint. Jones sent photos and videos of himself inside the Capitol to one witness interviewed by the FBI, while another witness told investigators they believed Jones “only went inside the building because he was allowed to enter.”
Jones’ attorney, Sam Shamansky, declined to comment on the charges until he had reviewed photos and video allegedly showing Jones in the Capitol. “He was fully cooperative and is eager to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible,” Shamansky said.
Ethan Seitz, 31, of Bucyrus, was arrested on preliminary charges of illegally entering a restricted building, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Seitz is accused of entering the Capitol building on Jan. 6 by pushing through a door blocked by police officers, according to a federal criminal complaint. “First time I ever came to DC and I was right at the front of the charge into the capitol,” Seitz said in a Jan. 7 Facebook message, the complaint said.
Seitz was released on $20,000 bond after his initial appearance and ordered not to travel outside of the northern half of Ohio except to attend court hearings in Washington, D.C., where his case is being prosecuted. Messages were left with his attorney seeking comment.
Clifford Mackrell, 20, of Lorain in northern Ohio, was arrested on preliminary charges of assaulting a Capitol police officer, illegally entering a restricted building, obstruction of law enforcement, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Mackrell assaulted a Capitol police officer as he pushed against a barricade, and later attempted to expose the officer to chemical spray from another assailant by grabbing the officer’s gas mask, according to a federal criminal complaint filed March 16 in federal court in Washington, D.C.
In a Facebook post dated Jan. 6, Mackrell criticized all government officials and said, “how about we get rid of all of them because well it is out literal job as american’s to kill the tyrannical government,” the federal complaint said. A message was left with his attorney seeking comment.
Brandon Miller, 34, and Stephanie Miller, 30, of Bradford in western Ohio, were arrested on charges of illegally entering a restricted building and violent and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Court records don’t list specific allegations against them. Messages were left for Brandon Miller’s public defender and Stephanie Miller’s defense attorney.
Jared Adams, 26, was arrested in Hilliard in suburban Columbus on preliminary charges of illegally entering a restricted building, violent and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds, and engaging in destructive conduct in a restricted building.
A video on Adams’ Instagram account includes images of individuals breaking into the Capitol and statements such as, “We stormed the Capitol building and the senate today! I can tell my grandchildren I was there!” according to a federal criminal complaint.
A friend of a high school classmate of Adams provided authorities the Instagram video, and the FBI used GPS data to confirm that a phone associated with Adams was in the Capitol for one hour and 47 minutes, the complaint said. A message was left with his attorney.
James Horning, 44, was arrested on Feb. 24 after the FBI received several tips indicating he was inside the federal building alongside the violent mob of Trump supporters, according to a complaint unsealed Monday. In the days following the breach, a witness notified officials of videos Horning had allegedly posted on Facebook where he defended his role in the insurrection.
“To anyone on my list who has a problem with what happened in DC today.. I am (expletive) proud I was there. If you have a problem with that, hit the inbox if you want.. or use the unfriend feature if you ain’t bout it,” the Facebook post read, according to the complaint.
A second witness, a high school friend of Horning, told agents Horning posted a video where he appeared to be smoking marijuana outside the Capitol. In another social media post detailed in the complaint, Horning said in addition to wanting “to be there when history happens,” he also went to Washington on Jan. 6 to “smoke weed in government buildings.”
Horning faces charges including unlawful and violent entry, obstruction of justice and Congress and disorderly conduct which impedes government business. A message was left with his federal public defender seeking comment.
Troy Faulkner, 39, owner of Faulkner Painting in Columbus faces charges that include the destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding and violent entry.
In U.S. District Court documents, officials provided a still photo of Faulkner wearing a jacket that bared his company name on the back while part of a mob of Trump supporters who smashed their way into the U.S. Capitol. A few days after the riot, Faulkner posted on Facebook that “we weren’t fighting against antifa we were fighting against the government,” according to the complaint.
Faulkner later contacted the FBI’s hotline and reported “his destruction of the U.S. Capitol’s shutter in Washington, D.C.” His court-appointed attorney has not responded to a request for comment.
FBI arrested Stephen Ayres, 38, and charged him with illegally entering the Capitol building after he was identified by a family member and through Facebook posts he had made before, during, and after the insurrection.
According to a criminal complaint, Ayres, of northeast Ohio, and an unnamed man in a video posted to Facebook discuss how police escorted them from one end of the Capitol to the other. Police “basically let everyone walk in,” Ayres said in the video.
In a separate live video, Ayres says that the Capitol breach “was just the beginning” and there was “more to come next week.”
His court-appointed attorney did not respond to AP’s request for comment.
Dustin Thompson, 36, and Robert Lyon, 27, were charged on Jan. 22 with illegally entering the Capitol and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Thompson is also accused of stealing the coat rack. The two men drove to Washington together for the insurrection and it was Thompson’s idea to go, Lyon told FBI agents.
Thompson’s attorney told AP his client, who repairs furniture for a living, was inspired by lies about election fraud told by Trump and his backers.
“Trump and people that supported his presidency would stop at absolutely nothing to keep him in power,” said Sam Shamansky, who didn’t dispute his client’s involvement based on video evidence. “The lie that was perpetuated endlessly by Trump and also members of the media that were willing to support him had its desired effect — it sowed dissension, it caused people to behave in ways that were just unimaginable.” Lyon’s public defender declined to comment.
Justin Stoll was arrested and charged on Jan. 15 with making interstate threats and threatening a witness after posting videos from the U.S. Capitol riots. The charges are not directly related to any activities at the federal building but in connection to the deadly breach.
The 40-year-old is accused of declaring in one video taken on Jan. 6, “D.C.’s a war zone!…You ain’t got enough cops, baby! We are at war at the Capitol…. We have taken the Capitol. This is our country.”
When one YouTube viewer said they’d saved his video, Stoll warned that if the viewer took action to “ever jeopardize me, from being with my family,” then the person would meet his or her maker, and that he would be the one to “arrange the meeting,” according to a federal complaint.
Stoll’s federal public defender and federal prosecutors have both asked for a delay in the case because of limitations on how frequently federal grand juries can meet now because of the pandemic. It was granted and the government has until April 30 to file an indictment.
Christine Priola, 49, was arrested on Jan. 14 at her home after social media users linked her to photos taken in the chamber of the U.S. Senate amid protesters reveling and trespassing.
Federal prosecutors charged her with entering a restricted building, violent entry and unlawful activities on Capitol grounds.
Before being charged, Priola submitted a resignation letter to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where she worked as an occupational therapist. Her resignation letter said she was switching careers to focus on exposing human trafficking and pedophilia, citing beliefs that are in line with a conspiracy theory espoused by some Trump supporters.
Federal agents said in court documents that they found a coat, a sign and other items in Priola’s home that matched those that she had with her in the Capitol. Her attorney has not responded to a request for comment.
Defendants allegedly linked with the anti-government group the Oath Keepers:
Donovan Crowl, 50, and Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County in western Ohio, were charged Jan. 19 with conspiracy, conspiracy to hurt an officer, violent entry, obstruction of official business and destruction of government property. The FBI collected social media messages, photos and videos to identify them as part of the Oath Keepers, which believe in a “shadowy conspiracy” to strip Americans of their rights.
Federal agents say the group Watkins and Crowl were part of a group on Jan. 6 that seemed to “move in an organized and practiced fashion and force their way to the front of the crowd gathered around a door to the U.S. Capitol.”
On Feb. 26, Watkins disavowed the right-wing group and said she was “humiliated” and “humbled” by the federal charges made against her.
Crowl pleaded not guilty because he is innocent, his attorney, Carmen Hernandez, said March 17.
“He is not an insurrectionist. He is a former Marine, who served his country honorably in the Persian Gulf,” Hernandez said, adding that his client on Jan. 6: “did not injure any person, did not do any damage to the Capitol or steal any property, and he did not interfere with any proceedings.”
Bennie Parker, 70, was in contact with fellow Oath Keepers member Watkins leading up to the trip to Jan. 6 to Washington D.C., discussing things like the uniforms and gear they would bring, the government says. After following the mob of rioters to the Capitol steps, his wife Sandra Parker, 60, entered the building while he stayed in contact outside, according to a federal complaint.
The couple was charged Feb. 12 with forcibly storming the Capitol, planning their attack in advance and communicating with other members of the Oath Keepers throughout the process.
Their attorney did not respond to AP’s request for comment.