U.S. authorities on Thursday charged Ryan Kelley, one of five Republican candidates running for governor in the midwestern state of Michigan, with four misdemeanor offenses for his role in the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol aimed at blocking certification of Democrat Joe Biden as the new president.
The 40-year-old Kelley was arrested at his western Michigan home. His presence at the Capitol that day among thousands of supporters of then-President Donald Trump has been widely known, although he has denied going inside the building or that he did anything wrong.
In a court document, investigators filed photos of him in a baseball cap worn backward, trying to rally the crowd supporting Trump as he tried to keep lawmakers from certifying Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.
The state Democratic Party in Michigan last year released a video appearing to show Kelley standing outside the Capitol building during the riots, apparently yelling, "Come on, let's go! This is it! This is — this is war."
In a charging document filed in federal court in Washington, the government did not accuse Kelley of being involved in plotting any attack that day. Instead, it charged him with allegedly knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building illegally; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; and knowingly engaging in acts of physical violence against persons or property.
He also was charged with willfully injuring or committing "depredation" against property of the United States. If convicted, Kelley faces up to a year in prison on each of the charges.
The charging papers alleged that Kelley waved a crowd up the stairway leading to the Capitol building and helped another rioter pull a metal barricade onto scaffolding that was holding up the stage for Biden’s inauguration two weeks later.
Prosecutors alleged that Kelley “used his hands to pull a covering off” the inauguration scaffolding, and “continued to gesture to the crowd, consistently indicating that they should move toward the stairs that led to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol interior spaces.”
In a March 2021 interview with MLive, a Michigan news outlet, Kelley said, “I think that event was definitely an energizing event, right? ... It will live on in history, absolutely. For a lot of different things.”
But he added, “As far as going through any barricades, or doing anything like that, I never took part in any forceful anything. Once things started getting crazy, I left.”
More than 800 people have been charged with an array of offenses stemming from the riot nearly a year-and-a-half ago, with more than 300 of them already having pleaded guilty or been convicted at trials, with the remaining cases unresolved.
Kelley’s arrest came on the same day that a House of Representatives investigating committee was opening a string of high-profile hearings on the riot.
Kelley, who sells real estate, is one of five gubernatorial candidates on the August 2 Republican primary ballot. The winner will face Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the November general election.