Former Capitol Police Officer Sentenced After Aiding Jan. 6 Rioter

A former U.S. Capitol Police officer was sentenced Thursday to 120 days of home incarceration and two years of probation after advising a rioter in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on how to avoid getting caught.

Michael Riley, a 25-year veteran of the law enforcement agency, was convicted of two counts of obstruction last fall, following an investigation that found he offered advice to rioter Jacob Hiles on social media and then deleted these messages when Hiles was contacted by the FBI.

While delivering the sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson decried Riley’s actions but also noted his job loss, health issues, and lack of criminal record, according to Roll Call, a Washington-based outlet. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 27 months behind bars.

Riley “deeply regrets his reckless lapse in judgment,” which “cost him his job and his reputation, and brought personal shame and heartache to his family,” according to a statement from his lawyer, Christopher Macchiaroli.

The attorney added, however, that Riley would be appealing the conviction, as he “never obstructed any grand jury proceeding, nor did he attempt or intend to do so.”

According to the charging documents, Riley first messaged Hiles privately on Jan. 7, 2021, introducing himself as “a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance.” The two had never met in person but were already Facebook friends due to a shared interest in fishing.

Riley then advised the rioter on avoiding potential prosecution, saying he should edit a post he had made about being inside the Capitol during the insurrection.

“Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to be charged. Just looking out!” the officer wrote.

The two continued to talk online for several days until Hiles mentioned that he had, in fact, come under investigation.

In messages to Riley, Hiles said he had told the FBI about his contact with a U.S. Capitol Police officer, adding that the bureau was “very curious” about their conversations. Hiles also said that his phone had been confiscated.

Riley responded, “That’s fine,” according to the charging documents.

“That’s what I told them,” Hiles replied. “I said if anything good came of all this, I got a new buddy out of it.”

Instead of a lasting friendship, prosecutors said Riley deleted all of his private messages with Hiles. He then sent Hiles a new message that claimed ignorance of the rioter’s behavior, saying he had thought Hiles was pushed into the Capitol and didn’t enter by choice.

“I was so mad last night I deleted [the messages] … but I wanted to text you this morning and let you know that I will no longer be conversing with you,” Riley wrote, according to the charges.

Riley resigned from the Capitol Police later in 2021 as the investigation into the Facebook exchange unfolded. Hiles reached a plea agreement for his own actions and was sentenced that year to 24 months of probation and 60 hours of community service, and he was ordered to pay $500 in restitution.

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