U.S. to Drop Charges Against Man Accused in Capitol Riot

The Justice Department plans to drop charges against one of the more than 400 Trump supporters it has accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to dismiss all charges against Christopher Kelly -- the first time the government has given up on a case in the far-reaching criminal investigation of the Capitol riot. In an arrest affidavit filed in January, the FBI claimed that Kelly entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 and accused him of obstruction of an official proceeding, among other less-serious offenses.

But the U.S. later determined that Kelly “wasn’t actually inside the building,” even though he’d shared a photo on social media that appeared to show people in the Capitol, said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “Further investigation found out it wasn’t his photo,” Raimondi said.

Throughout its investigation, the Justice Department has focused on charging those who either entered the building illegally or committed serious crimes like assault and vandalism outside it. Other protesters technically trespassed on Capitol grounds but never breached the building or committed additional crimes.

“If you enter the building, you’re gonna get something,” Raimondi said. “But if you’re just there, unless you did something else ... we’re not charging them.”

Kelly’s lawyer, Edward MacMahon, declined to comment.

In the initial arrest affidavit, an FBI agent laid out a series of social media posts in which Kelly discussed the Jan. 6 protests and circulated a photograph that appeared to have been taken inside the Capitol. “I believe the messages and image above reflect that Chris Kelly was using this account to inform associates that he had breached the Capitol building and was inside,” the affidavit said.

The Kelly case isn’t the first time the Justice Department has had to backtrack in its Jan. 6 investigation.

In January, a federal prosecutor in Arizona claimed in court that some rioters had made plans to “capture and assassinate” elected officials. After the comment made headlines, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington cautioned reporters that the U.S. had found no evidence of such plans and warned of a “disconnect” between prosecutors in different jurisdictions.

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