Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley charged for participation in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Investigators allege he filmed rioters assaulting police officers.

June 09, 2022, 12:01 PM

Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley was arrested Thursday morning over his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Kelley was taken into custody in Allendale, where he lives, and faces four misdemeanor charges "stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol breach," according to prosecutors. A law enforcement official said he was arrested at his home.

He will make his first court appearance later Thursday; records did not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf and his campaign did not immediately respond to a request from ABC News.

Kelley is among at least three other public officials who have been charged for allegedly participating in the Capitol riot. Couy Griffin, an Otero, New Mexico, county commissioner, was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge in March after a one-week bench trial.

Kelley is not accused in the court documents of entering the Capitol itself. Instead, he is charged with being on restricted grounds, engaging in disorderly conduct and other misdemeanors.

According to Kelley's arrest affidavit, multiple tips -- the first coming just 10 days after Jan. 6 -- were sent to the FBI with videos and images showing his participation in the riot at the Capitol.

One such tip "showed [Kelley] at the U.S. Capitol wearing a black coat, a backwards black baseball cap with a rectangular U.S. flag emblem above the bill, and aviator sunglasses," according to investigators.

PHOTO: Supporters of President Donald Trump, including a person identified as Ryan Kelley, center, make their way past barriers at the U.S. Capitol during a protest against the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, in Washington, D.C.
Supporters of President Donald Trump, including a person identified as Ryan Kelley, center, make their way past barriers at the U.S. Capitol during a protest against the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by Congress, in Washington, D.C.
Jim Urquhart/Reuters, FILE

The same information was later posted on Twitter and by Jan. 28, 2021, a confidential source who had been working with the FBI since 2020 -- providing information about domestic terrorism groups in Michigan -- also identified a person they believed to be Kelley in one of the numerous video clips taken during the insurrection.

The affidavit released along with Kelley's arrest extensively tracks his suspected movements inside the pro-Trump mob outside the Capitol last year.

Investigators allege that while Kelley was near the northwestern scaffolding on the west side of the building that was put up in advance of Joe Biden's inauguration, he filmed the rioters assaulting Capitol Police officers. Kelley advanced into the scaffolding after officers were forced to retreat, the court papers state, and eventually climbed atop an architectural feature on the northwest stairs and waved toward the crowd to move in his direction.

The affidavit notes that Kelley has a history of pushing to overturn the last presidential election and has faced scrutiny for his ties to Jan. 6.

He was previously a featured speaker at a November 2020 "Stop the Steal" rally at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, where he indicated "that those attending the rally should stand and fight, with the goal of preventing Democrats from stealing the election," according to authorities.

"He gave a speech while wearing a name tag and stated "Covid-19 was made so that they can use the propaganda to control your minds so that you think, if you watch the media, that Joe Biden won this election," investigators wrote in the charging papers. "We're not going to buy it. We're going to stand and fight for America, for Donald Trump. We're not going to let the Democrats steal this election."

PHOTO: Ryan Kelly, Republication candidate for Governor, attends a Freedom Rally in support of First Amendment rights and to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer, outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, May 15, 2021.
Ryan Kelly, Republication candidate for Governor, attends a Freedom Rally in support of First Amendment rights and to protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer, outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, May 15, 2021.
Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

In February 2021, Kelley was interviewed by a local TV channel and was asked about being at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He denied entering the building and refused to identify himself in pictures that individuals online had pulled claiming he was among the mob.

But the FBI says they further confirmed his involvement with three other witnesses -- including a person who knows Kelley personally, a law enforcement officer from the Ottawa County Sheriff's office and a public official of Allendale, where Kelley serves as a planning commissioner.

Kelley is one of five candidates for the GOP nomination to challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November. Five other Republicans were disqualified because they had fraudulent signatures on their petitions.

In a statement after Kelley's arrest, the state Democratic Party lambasted his involvement in Jan. 6 -- and said his attacks on the 2020 election were not unique among the conservative candidates, who had all "equally shouldered the same baseless lies."

"[Their] callous disregard for the principles of democracy was on full display again today. ... Michiganders won't forget the role they played in dismantling public trust in democracy," the party chair, Lavora Barnes, said.

ABC News' Luke Barr and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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