Former U.S. Capitol police officer, Michael A. Riley, was found guilty on Friday of obstruction of justice for deleting his own Facebook messages offering advice to a Jan 6. rioter on how to hide evidence about entering the Capitol on the day of the insurrection, The New York Times reports.
Riley, who served on the Capitol Police force for over 25 years, faces up to 20 years in prison.
Although Riley was not working at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, he did send dozens of messages to the rioter, who was identified as Virginia Beach fishing boat captain Jacob Hiles, according to The Washington Post. Riley recommended that Hiles remove any incriminating selfies or videos that would place him in the Capitol that day. The two did not know each other personally, but they were both members of the same Facebook fishing groups.
“I’m a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance,” Riley wrote, according to the indictment. “Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to [be] charged. Just looking out!”
Prosecutors also said that Riley divulged information about how the FBI was going to track down the identities of rioters; later he deleted those messages.
“I get it… it was a total shit show!!!,” Riley wrote in another message. “Just wanted to give you a heads up… Im glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
On Jan. 20, 2021, Hiles turned himself in to the police and was arrested. Afterwards, he contacted Riley. “The fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you” Hiles wrote. When speaking to the FBI, Hiles mentioned that “following the riot he had become friends with a Capitol police officer,” The Washington Post reports.
Prosecutors claimed that at this point, Riley deleted all of the Facebook messages between himself and the Facebook user.
The next day, Riley sent another message. Prosecutors said the last message was his attempt at a cover story pretending to scold Hiles, according to The New York Times.
“Another mutual friend was talking about you last night,” Riley messaged. “I tried to defend you but then he showed me a video of you in the Capitol smoking weed and acting like a moron. 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.”
After deliberating for parts of four days, a federal jury convicted Riley on Friday on one of the obstruction counts, for deleting his Facebook messages with Hiles. However, the jury in Washington, D.C. could not reach a verdict on a second obstruction count related to Riley’s initial communication with Hiles.
Riley is the only Capitol police officer facing a criminal charge related to the insurrection on Jan. 6, when many of his fellow officers were brutally attacked by pro-Trump rioters.