FBI arrests Michigan candidate for governor on January 6 ‘riot’ related charges

Republican candidate Ryan Kelley speaks during the 2022 primary debate for Republican Gubernatorial candidates at the Livingston Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner at Crystal Gardens on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (Jenifer Veloso | MLive.com)


Robert Snell

The Detroit News

Jun. 9—FBI agents arrested Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley on misdemeanor charges related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The arrest and search unfolding at Kelley’s home in Allendale add more uncertainty to a chaotic race for governor that has seen several Republican candidates blocked from the ballot for submitting fraudulent nominating petition signatures.

Federal court records describe Kelley as being an active participant in the riot, climbing onto portions of the Capitol, encouraging yelling, gesturing to participants and removing a covering from a temporary structure outside the Capitol.

The records also portray Kelley as being under investigation within days of the riot and reveal that FBI agents relied on assistance from an informant who was helping the bureau investigate domestic terrorism.

In one clip, Kelley is shown using his hands to support another rioter who is pulling a metal barricade, according to the complaint.

“At approximately 2:20 p.m., Kelley continued to gesture to the crowd, consistently indicating that they should move towards the stairs that led to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol interior spaces,” the complaint reads.

Kelley, 40, is expected to make an initial appearance later Thursday in federal court in Grand Rapids.

Prosecutors filed four charges against Kelley. They are knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conduct; knowingly engaging in any act of physical violence against person or property in a restricted building or grounds; willfully injuring or committing depredation against property of the U.S. If convicted, Kelley faces maximum punishment of up to 10 years in federal prison.

A spokeswoman for Kelley’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

The arrest comes 17 months after Kelley traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 6, 2021, protests that preceded an attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In June 2021, the Michigan Democratic Party promoted video footage that appeared to show Kelley shouting “Come on, let’s go! This is it! This is — this is war, baby!” as he moved toward the Capitol building.

The arrest and search unfolded hours ahead of members of a House select committee starting long-awaited televised hearings on the Jan. 6 riot.

The investigation started with multiple tips within days of the riot, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.

One tip included photos of Kelley wearing a black coat, a backward baseball hat with an emblem of the U.S. flag, and aviator sunglasses.

On Jan. 28, 2021, an informant who had worked with the FBI on domestic terrorism groups in Michigan identified Kelley in another video.

Video shows Kelley near scaffolding outside the western side of the U.S. Capitol. He is filming the crowd assaulting and pushing U.S. Capitol Police Officers, according to the complaint.

“At approximately 2:00 p.m., Kelley climbed onto and stood on an architectural feature next to the North West stairs and indicated by waving his hand that the crowd behind him should move towards the stairs leading into the U.S. Capitol building,” the complaint reads.

Kelley, a real estate broker from Allendale and founder of the American Patriot Council, filed paperwork to launch his committee to run for governor in late January 2021.

The American Patriot Council has alleged that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, three Democrats, are felons. Kelley has also called for their arrests.

” Gretchen Whitmer, Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson are felons and should be arrested and put in prison,” Kelley said in a past video on the group’s website.

In January, Kelley told a crowd in Livingston County to unplug voting machines from the wall if “you see something you don’t like happening with the machine.”

In response, Benson said tampering with ballot machines is illegal.

In January 2022, Benson, the state’s top elections official, said she had referred Kelley’s comments about unplugging voting machines to Nessel.

Kelley is one of five remaining Republican gubernatorial candidates after a signature forgery scandal rocked the 10-person field and caused five candidates to miss the 15,000-signature threshold to appear on the August ballot.

Two of the GOP frontrunners — former Detroit police Chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson — are still appealing their disqualifications. Craig also has said he’d consider a write-in campaign.

The Bureau of Elections last month said a total of 36 petition circulators “submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures.” Those circulators submitted at least 68,000 signatures, the bureau estimated.

“Just days after their field was cut in half due to corruption and mass fraud, Republican gubernatorial candidates’ callous disregard for the principles of democracy was on full display again today as Ryan Kelley was taken into custody by the FBI following his participation in the January 6th insurrection,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said.

Come back to www.detroitnews.com for more on this developing story.

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