WASHINGTON — A Capitol Police officer accused of warning a riot defendant to delete evidence has hired three former assistant U.S. attorneys to help defend him against obstruction of justice charges.
Officer Michael Angelo Riley was indicted last week on two felony charges for allegedly sending Facebook messages warning a man who’d been inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 to take down photos and videos incriminating himself in the riot.
In his initial message, investigators say Riley wrote, “Hey [Person 1], im a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. 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!”
Prosecutors say the men had not met prior to January 6, and that they’d connected on Facebook through a mutual interest in fishing.
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Riley appeared in court last week to be arraigned alongside his lawyer, David Benowitz. Benowitz is representing a number of other defendants in the Capitol riot case, including Peter Stager and Jonathan Gennaro Mellis – both accused of assaulting police on January 6.
On Tuesday, three attorneys from the law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White notified the court they had also been retained to defend Riley. According to their bios, all three attorneys are former federal prosecutors – at least two with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting all of the January 6 cases. The three Silverman Thompson attorneys retained to defend Riley are:
- Andrew C. White, a senior partner with the firm who previously served as a senior litigation advisor to the Clinton Independent Counsel during the investigation of the former president’s affair with a White House intern. According to his bio, White is “often called upon to handle very unique and complicated cases.” Before entering private practice, White served nearly 10 years as a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
- Evan Corcoran, a partner in the firm and a former assistant U.S. attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. Corcoran’s bio says he previously helped consulting and intelligence firm Booz Allen Hamilton avoid federal disbarment and also represented Verizon in a nine-figure class action lawsuit in Hawaii.
- Christopher Macchiaroli, also a partner in the firm who previously served for more than 10 years in the criminal section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. and in the civil division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
Riley’s high-powered defense team could be a sign he’s angling for a more favorable plea offer by hiring attorneys who have professional relationships with those prosecuting his case, according to former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani. Rahmani is now the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers and has no affiliation with any January 6 cases.
Rahmani said he thinks a defense at trial is unlikely in the case, since Riley's alleged statements "calling for the deletion of social media were in writing and easily provable."
Riley was the first Capitol Police officer charged with criminal conduct in connection to the Capitol riot. Following January 6, the Capitol Police Department announced investigations into the conduct of 35 officers during the riot. In September, the department said six would face discipline for wrongdoing. It was unclear whether Riley was one of those six.
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