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Former Capitol Police officer charged with obstructing Jan. 6 investigation wants more information from prosecutors

Entire Capitol Police Board praised Michael Angelo Riley upon his post-indictment resignation from force

Former Capitol Police Officer Michael Angelo Riley is charged with obstructing the investigation into Jan. 6.
Former Capitol Police Officer Michael Angelo Riley is charged with obstructing the investigation into Jan. 6. (Roll Call Photos)

Michael Angelo Riley, the former Capitol Police officer who faces charges for obstructing the investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, asked a federal judge Thursday to require the government to provide him more information he can use for his defense.

Riley is charged with two felony counts of obstruction: one for telling Capitol rioter Jacob Hiles to take down Facebook posts of him in the building on Jan. 6 and another for deleting his own Facebook communications with Hiles.

In December, Hiles was sentenced to two years probation, ordered to pay $500 in restitution and assigned 60 hours of community service after pleading guilty to a single count of demonstrating in a Capitol building, a misdemeanor.

Riley’s lawyer, Christopher Macchiaroli, argues the government should provide information on when the grand jury regarding Hiles began and who knew about it. This is because “the Government in its prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Riley knew there was a grand jury empaneled as to Mr. Hiles or had reason to know that one would be.” 

Macchiaroli says the government has refused to provide this information after “numerous requests” and that it won’t confirm if the grand jury investigation existed on Jan. 7, 2021, which “is the requisite underpinning to any claim that Officer Riley knew or had reason to know about it at the time of his alleged suggestion to Mr. Hiles.”

The filing says the government “demonstrably ignored” that rights of a criminal defendant are the same regardless of the individual or charged offense. The FBI investigation revealed to Riley that he was the subject of an investigation “solely” because he was a Capitol Police officer, and had he been a “gardener” the investigation into him would not have occurred, according to the filing.

The filing also notes that the government initially said Hiles was not a cooperator, but in its sentencing memorandum it went on to say Hiles provided “exceptional cooperation.” Riley’s lawyer says the government has refused to provide a transcript from Hiles’ sentencing hearing, any discovery from Hiles’ prosecution and all cellphone and social media accounts obtained from Hiles.

Additionally, Riley’s lawyer is asking for preservation requests sent to Facebook “which would negate the Government’s theory that Officer Riley did anything that would ‘impair’ the ability of the grand jury to obtain evidence from Facebook,” among other asks.

Hiles is from Virginia Beach, Va., and runs a sport fishing business. Riley and Hiles didn’t know each other but were both avid fishermen who belonged to fishing groups on Facebook. The two connected on Facebook on Jan. 1, 2021, when Riley sent him a friend request. 

On Jan. 6, Riley was on duty outside of the Capitol building and responded to reports of an explosive device near the complex. That day, Hiles breached the Capitol, entering through the Upper West Terrace door.

The next day, Riley sent Hiles a Facebook message saying he was a Capitol Police officer and “agrees with your political stance,” 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 charged. Just looking out!” Riley wrote.

They continued to message each other, and on Jan. 13 Riley told Hiles to “get off of social media.” Hiles was arrested on Jan. 19. Riley deleted his messages with Hiles the following day. On Jan. 21, 12 days after Riley acknowledged a video of Hiles smoking in the Capitol, Riley told Hiles in a Facebook message that he tried to defend Hiles to a friend, but then he “showed me a video of you in the Capitol smoking weed and acting like a moron.” That was the last message Riley sent to Hiles, the indictment said.

Despite Hiles pleading guilty and expressing contrition, and the government lauding his cooperation in its sentencing memorandum, Hiles posted on Facebook a photo and comment commemorating the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6, calling it a “special anniversary.”

Ultimately, the discovery requested, Riley’s lawyer says, “is material to Officer Riley’s defense and undermines the elements of the offenses charged against him.”

In October, the same month he was arrested and indicted, Riley resigned from the department. He was a Capitol Police officer for more than 25 years, most recently serving as a K-9 technician.

Send-off note

A Dec. 2, 2021, letter signed by the entire Capitol Police Board — House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Karen Gibson, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton and Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, a nonvoting member of the board — congratulates Riley for his service.

“Since 1996, you have represented the United States Capitol Police — and Congress — with honor and distinction,” the four Capitol security officials wrote in the letter included as part of Thursday’s filing.

The board said that Riley, who is facing two felonies, has “consistently demonstrated the leadership and integrity which are absolutely essential in law enforcement excellence.”

“Your attention to duty, professionalism, and dedication are above reproach, and each serve as a tribute to your character,” the board said. “Your hard work will leave a lasting impression on the department for many years to come.”

The letter was a mistake, according to the Capitol Police department.

“The letter with that particular language, and pre-printed signatures, went out in error. We are looking at ways to ensure only officers who leave in good standing receive such a letter,” department spokesperson Tim Barber said in a statement.

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