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Jury Convicts Former Capitol Police Officer For Deleting Social Media Messages

Washington, DC – A DC jury found a former U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officer guilty of obstruction of justice on Friday for deleting Facebook messages instructing someone who was at the Capitol riot to take down social media posts about entering the U.S. Capitol building

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced two obstruction charges against USCP Officer Michael Riley, a 25-year-veteran of the police force, on Oct. 15, 2021, ABC News reported.

Officer Riley was placed on administrative leave and then resigned from the department before the end of that month, CNBC reported.

The now-former K-9 officer one of the first to respond to the Republican National Committee building near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after pipe bombs were found outside that political headquarters and near the Democratic National Committee building down the street.

The riot inside the U.S. Capitol complex occurred hours later and Officer Riley was not on the scene of that, NBC News reported.

However, Officer Riley and his K9 partner helped check the Capitol building later that night so that members of Congress could return into their joint session to certify President Joe Biden’s election.

The indictment said that after he got off duty, the now-former Capitol Police officer noticed a Facebook friend had posted about being at the Capitol riot. Officer Riley warned his friend to take it down, NBC News reported.

“[I’]m a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance,” Officer Riley wrote in a message to Jacob Hiles. “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!”

The indictment said that Officer Riley deleted his private messages to Hiles after his Facebook friend was arrested, NBC News reported.

Prosecutors said that Officer Riley exchanged dozens of additional messages with Hiles.

Charging documents said Hiles shared numerous pictures and videos of himself inside and outside the Capitol building during the riot with Officer Riley in private messages.

“I get it… it was a total s-t show!!!” Officer Riley messaged Hiles. “Just wanted to give you a heads up… Im glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”

Charging documents said the two continued to instant message each other for several days and that Officer Riley jokingly invited Hiles to come stay with him in DC and tour the Capitol “legally,” ABC News reported.

The indictment said that Hiles, a fishing charter captain from Virginia, was arrested on Jan. 19, 2021, and warned Officer Riley in a message afterwards that “the fbi was very curious that I had been speaking to you” and would probably be in touch, prompting Officer Riley to delete all of his messages with him.

Riley testified in his own defense at his trial and said that he was never trying to hide evidence or obstruct a grand jury proceeding, NBC News reported.

“I was embarrassed because I had reached out to him in the first place and allowed myself to get in a position like this,” the former officer testified on Oct. 24. “I never intended for any of this to happen.”

The jury was not able to reach a verdict on the charge related to the message he sent to Hiles, but they did find him guilty of the second charge for deleting his messages after he found out that his friend had been talking to the FBI, NBC News reported.

The jury deliberated for four days, the lengthiest by far so far of any of the jury deliberations surrounding the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson declared a mistrial on the first obstruction count on Oct. 28, NBC News reported.

It wasn’t clear whether federal prosecutors would try to go after the former Capitol Police officer again on the first charge given that the second conviction would not have made much difference at sentencing.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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