Federal prosecutors have moved to drop all charges against a New York area man accused of involvement in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, after an investigation determined he did not enter the Capitol building, officials said.
Christopher Kelly was arrested Jan. 21 in Rockland County, N.Y., on a federal criminal complaint charging him with felony obstruction of Congress, as well as misdemeanors including entering a Secret Service-restricted area and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The case appears to be the first federal-court Capitol riot prosecution that prosecutors have given up on.
The charges against Kelly came after a confidential informant pointed the FBI to his Facebook account, which showed him posing on Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 unrest. “We’re in,” Kelly declared in one post that the FBI said was from around the time the Capitol was breached. He also apparently posted a photo from inside the Capitol, the FBI said, although he was not in that shot.
Kelly’s Facebook account also included a series of combative statements, including “Taking this back by force now” and “F— these snakes. Out of OUR HOUSE.” Kelly also appeared in a photo waving an American flag outside the building.
However, subsequent inquiries indicated that Kelly never actually entered the Capitol, according to a law enforcement official.
Prosecutors maintain that breaching the police lines outside the building is illegal, but few if any people have been charged in federal court solely for that.
“Since he was not inside, in the interest of consistency in the investigation, the charges were dropped,” the official said.
Kelly has been on pretrial release since his first court appearance in January. He traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6 events with his brother, who is a retired New York Police Department officer, the FBI said in a court filing.
Kelly’s attorney, Edward MacMahon, declined to comment on the development. A Justice Department spokesperson also declined to comment.
More than 450 defendants face federal court charges related to the storming of the Capitol by a crowd loyal to President Donald Trump as lawmakers were tallying electoral votes.