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Former Capitol Police officer sentenced for interference with Jan. 6 probe

Michael Riley, who spent more than two decades on the force, expressed 'regret and remorse' for the effect his arrest had on himself and his family

Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley poses for a picture outside of headquarters in 2011.
Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley poses for a picture outside of headquarters in 2011. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former Capitol Police officer to 120 days of home incarceration and two years of probation for a felony conviction tied to Facebook messages with a rioter who was in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided against a prison sentence for Michael A. Riley, a 25-year veteran of the Capitol Police, at a sentencing hearing that lasted more than an hour.

A jury in October found Riley guilty of one felony count of obstruction for interfering with a grand jury investigation. Prosecutors said he deleted hundreds of his messages with Capitol rioter Jacob Hiles once Hiles said he had told the FBI about their communications.

Jackson, in delivering the sentence, told Riley his actions were “contrary to law and contrary to your obligations as a Capitol Police officer.” But she also noted his loss of his career, lack of criminal record and serious health issues.

Speaking to Jackson before his sentence, Riley’s voice broke as he expressed “regret and remorse” for the effect his arrest had on himself and his family. He also noted that he had lost a more than two-decade career as a police officer because of his actions.

“All of those years, all of those positive contributions, have been reduced to nothing,” Riley said.

Prosecutors initially requested a sentence of 27 months in prison for Riley, arguing in part that his testimony at trial showed “contempt for the criminal justice system.”

Jackson ruled against an increase in his sentence for that reason at Thursday’s hearing, and prosecutors then requested a sentence of 21 months in prison.

Prosecutor Christopher Howland referenced Spider-Man’s aphorism that “with great power comes great responsibility,” and said Riley’s position as a police officer should mean a stiffer prison term.

“All those years of service are what make this offense so egregious,” Howland said.

The charges stemmed from messages Riley exchanged with Hiles, which started when Riley messaged Hiles to tell him to take down a public post on Facebook where Hiles said he entered the Capitol.

“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 in that initial message.

At trial the prosecutors presented evidence that the two were avid fishermen and had exchanged hundreds of messages over the next few weeks.

Hiles was arrested in January 2021, and Riley deleted all his messages with him the next day, prosecutors said. Hiles eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of demonstrating in the Capitol and was sentenced to two years of probation, $500 in restitution and 60 hours of community service.

Prosecutors tried Riley on two charges of obstruction of justice, one for initially telling Hiles to remove the post and one for later deleting the messages between them. The jury returned a guilty verdict on the Facebook messages, and Jackson declared a mistrial on the other felony count after the jury deliberated for more than three days.

More than 1,000 people have faced federal charges in the more than two years since the assault on the Capitol, according to a Department of Justice update on the cases released last week.

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