Kelley calls arrest, raid related to Jan. 6 insurrection a 'political witch hunt'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ryan Kelley called his arrest on misdemeanor charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection a “political witch hunt” in a Friday radio interview and accused federal authorities of intimidation tactics for raiding his Allendale home in front of his family. 

Kelley said his arrest Thursday was a distraction from other issues such as inflation, baby formula shortages and unproven election fraud allegations.

"Yet we're continuing to go off on these political witch hunts against the frontrunner of the Michigan gubernatorial race on the Republican side," Kelley told Justin Barclay of WOOD-AM (1300). "And they're going after the people asking the questions that truly want to protect our republic, uphold election integrity and want the issues of the day facing the American people to be addressed."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Kelley Thursday on four misdemeanor charges, hours before the first high-profile hearing by a U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. Federal authorities in court records said Kelley climbed onto portions of the Capitol, encouraged and gestured to other participants and removed a covering from a temporary structure outside the Capitol. 

Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelly leaves the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Mich., with his family and supporters on Thursday, June 9, 2022. Kelley has been charged with four misdemeanors from his involvement with the riot at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.

His charges include 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; and willfully injuring or committing depredation against property of the U.S.

Kelley was released Thursday on a personal recognizance bond. The charges carry a maximum punishment of up to a year in federal prison or a fine of up to $100,000 for each charge.

On the radio Friday, the Allendale real estate broker denied he ever entered the Capitol building during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot and said "the rest of the story, as the court case plays out, we'll be sharing more on that at some point in the near future."

When asked by Barclay whether he regretted participating in the Jan. 6 events, Kelley said "we were there celebrating America" and he noted former President Donald Trump had called for Americans to be there.

"It's going to be remembered for a very long time, I'll say that much," Kelley said. 

Federal court records indicate Kelley was under investigation within days of the riot and that authorities used a confidential informant to help with the investigation. They also used several individuals who knew Kelley to confirm it was him in the photos from the riot. Those individuals included an FBI agent who'd interviewed Kelley on July 30, 2020. 

Kelley on Friday appeared to indicate his meeting with the FBI in July 2020 related in part to complaints regarding Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's handling of nursing home policies during the pandemic. 

"There was communication there back in July of 2020 in regard to other issues related to nursing home deaths in the state of Michigan," Kelley said.

He also told LifeSiteNews Thursday that his campaign is still going "full speed ahead."

"The governor's race is still on," Kelley told the news outlet. "If you didn't know me before, you know me now. Nothing changes with the race."

Kelley's reference to a boost in his name recognition mirrors what other Michigan political observers told The Detroit News on Thursday, when they said the arrest could help Kelley's chances in the GOP primary.

The Republican gubernatorial field had been so crowded until the past two weeks that it's been tough for Kelley to distinguish himself, said David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University. The arrest is likely to boost Kelley's name recognition, he said. 

"It will undoubtedly help his fundraising," Dulio told The News. "Right or wrong, this is going to get him attention." 

Kelley is one of five remaining GOP candidates for governor after a signature forgery scandal caused five of 10 candidates to miss the 15,000-signature threshold to appear on the August ballot. 

One of the GOP frontrunners disqualified because of the signature issues — former Detroit police Chief James Craig — said Thursday he would launch a write-in campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. Craig has regularly appeared on conservative Fox News programs to get his message to the Republican base voters.

Businessman Perry Johnson, also disqualified because of forged signatures, is appealing the decision in federal court.

Staff Writers Craig Mauger, Riley Begin and Robert Snell contributed.