Woman convicted in January 6 attack but not for stealing Pelosi laptop ~ Washington

A federal jury in Washington said Monday it could not agree on whether a Pennsylvania woman was responsible for stealing a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol helped, but the panel convicted her of six other riot-related offenses, including two felonies.

After deliberating for three full days in the Riley J. Williams case, the jury said they also could not reach a unanimous verdict on whether Williams committed the crime of obstructing an official government process, the most serious charge she faced possible prison sentence. The allegation of aiding and abetting the theft of a laptop was a misdemeanor.

But in a trial that began Nov. 8 in US District Court in Washington, the panel convicted Williams, 23, of civil disorder and police officer disturbance, both felonies, and four counts of disorderly conduct, entering and remaining in a restricted area building or site and illegally demonstrating in the Capitol.

Aside from a few days behind bars after her arrest, Williams of Mechanicsburg, Pa., near Harrisburg, was under house arrest pending the conclusion of her trial, and defense attorney Lori J. Ulrich Monday asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson for permission to remain until Williams outside of prison for her sentencing, which is scheduled for February 22.

But Jackson agreed with a prosecutor and ordered Williams arrested immediately and had harsh words for the defendant.

Citing evidence that Williams was preparing to go into hiding before the FBI arrested her, Jackson testified from the bench, “This is a person who was already grabbed and ready to flee.” Based on video from the Attacking the Capitol, Williams was “profane, she was obnoxious, she was threatening,” the judge said. “She has absolutely no respect for law enforcement.”

Jackson declared a mistrial on the disability count and the charge related to the laptop theft. The US Attorney’s Office did not immediately say whether they intend to launch a new trial for these offenses.

When he asked that Williams be jailed pending sentencing, Assistant US Attorney Samuel Dalke told the court, “It’s getting real” for Williams. “She faces a minimum of two to three years in prison,” based on advisory federal sentencing guidelines, “and could be significantly more depending on improvement.”

Williams traveled to Washington with her father and two others on the day of the Capitol Siege. At trial, prosecutors described her as an avid election denier who staged violence inside the building during the riots, while Ulrich portrayed her as a naïve young woman who made a mistake by entering the Capitol.

When she asked the jury to acquit Williams of obstructing an official process, Ulrich said in her closing argument last week that the law requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams had “intent” to commit the crime. Ulrich argued that her client was ignorant of US election processes and did not understand what Congress was doing that day.

That was one of the counts that the jury said was hopelessly deadlocked.

Dressed in black tights and a brown jacket that January day, and with a fuzzy zebra-striped purse slung over her shoulder, the slight Williams sought out rioters inside the building, outfitted in tactical vests, shields, goggles and helmets, and organized, according to prosecutors they attacked police security lines.

She “pushed them to the front of the line over and over again,” Dalke said in his closing argument last week after jurors saw numerous video clips of Williams admonishing men in military gear. “The defendant did not bring a weapon with him on January 6th. She made one there. She turned other rioters into one.”

Riley and her three companions attended President Donald Trump’s fire rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6, where he repeated his false claim that rampant voter fraud led to his 2020 re-election defeat. After that, she was separated from her father and the others and made her way to the Capitol, where she joined a crowd of Trump supporters to storm the building while Congress met to confirm Joe Biden’s victory.

Video images show that when Williams arrived at Pelosi’s office suite, rioters were already there and a man had his hands on a laptop that was on a conference table. Prosecutors said Pelosi (D-Calif.) used this computer to conduct video conferences with US and foreign officials.

Prosecutors said Williams could be heard screaming, “Dude, take the damn laptop” and “Dude, put on gloves.” Ulrich argued that her client should be cleared of complicity in the laptop theft because the unidentified thief stole the computer would have taken, even if Williams hadn’t said anything. But Assistant US Attorney Michael M. Gordon told jurors that Williams committed a felony simply by soliciting theft.

That was the other charge that the jury had deadlocked on.

Gordon and Dalke showed jurors numerous post-riot messages Williams allegedly sent to friends admitting to committing crimes. According to the FBI, among other typos and social media posts, Williams wrote: “STOLE S— FROM NANCY POLESI,” “I TOOK HER GRAVEL HAMMWR TBING,” and “I DOMT CARE I TOOK NANCY POLESIS HARD DRIVES I DON’T CARE to kill me.”

By “gravel,” Williams meant one of the gavels of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, prosecutors said.

But Ulrich described her client as an unassuming young person who falsely boasted and bragged about her role in the uprising because she desperately “wanted to be someone”. She was “trapped in a little fantasy world,” said the defender. “She wanted people to notice her.”

About 900 people have been arrested in connection with the Capitol rioting by the end of this month, according to US Attorneys in Washington, including nearly 280 like Williams on charges of resisting or assaulting police officers. About 447 people have pleaded guilty to various charges and about 30 have been convicted of various offenses in court cases, the bureau said.

Ulrich said Williams went to great lengths to hide her post-riot digital history, not because she committed the acts described in numerous news reports, but because she was afraid.

“She’s scared now,” Ulrich told the jury. “She knows this is a big deal. … All her bragging and bragging about things she didn’t do … is catching up with her now.”