A 25-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police force was charged Friday with trying to protect a man who was later accused of illegally entering the Capitol during the January 6 riot.
A grand jury indictment charged Officer Michael Angelo Riley with repeatedly telling the man to delete all social media that would provide proof of entering the building that day.
“[I']m a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance,” Riley said in a Facebook direct message, according to the indictment. “Take down the part about being in the building they are correctly investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out!”
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Riley was placed on leave.
"Obstruction of justice is a very serious allegation," Manger said. "The department was notified about this investigation several weeks ago. Upon his arrest, the officer was placed on administrative leave pending the completion of the case."
Capitol police will conduct their own administrative investigation, he said.
Court documents said Riley, a member of the police K-9 unit, sent a Facebook friend request to a man described only as "Person 1" on Jan. 1. Both were in Facebook groups devoted to fishing. The day after the riot, Riley sent a direct message to Person 1, who had posted photos and videos admitting his presence in the Capitol.
Law enforcement officials said Person 1 is a Virginia fishing charter boat operator, Jacob Hiles. He pleaded guilty in early September to a charge of illegally parading in the Capitol and will be sentenced in December. Court documents in his case said he “smoked an unknown substance” during his time in the building.
The two exchanged dozens more Facebook direct messages, the indictment said. When Person 1 said he did not think he had done anything wrong, Riley responded, "The only thing I can see is if you went in the building and they have proof you will be charged."
Several days later, Riley advised Person 1, "Get off of social media," the indictment said.
Court documents said that on Jan. 20, the man told Riley that the FBI was curious about his conversations with the Capitol police officer, and that Riley then deleted all his Facebook direct messages to and from Person 1.
The next day, the indictment said, Riley sent him a new message saying a video showed the man in the Capitol "smoking weed and acting like a moron. I have to say i was shocked and dumfounded, since your story of getting pushed in the building with no other choice now seems not only false but a big lie. I feel like a moron for believing you."
Riley received commendations from the Capitol Police and a national law enforcement organization in about 10 years ago for performing resuscitative measures on a fellow police officer suffering a medical emergency.
Justice Department officials said Riley was arrested Friday on obstruction of justice charges. The name of his lawyers was not immediately available.
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.
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