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Feds charge woman accused of stealing Pelosi’s laptop during Capitol riot

Jeremy Roebuck
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia – A Harrisburg woman charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol told her former romantic partner that she stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop with the intent of selling the device to Russia’s foreign intelligence services, federal authorities said Monday.

Riley June Williams, a 22-year-old employee of a home health care agency, was among dozens of people charged since Friday in the FBI’s nationwide hunt for insurrectionists that participated in the attack.

Also charged Monday was a former Pennsylvania State Police cadet from Lehigh County, who surrendered to investigators Sunday after discovering he was wanted for attacking officers trying to keep the rioters at bay.

Williams’ story, though, has given investigators particular cause for concern given the possibility that the laptop she is accused of stealing could contain sensitive information and questions over whether she actually has the means to carry out her purported plan to send it to Russia.

In an affidavit filed late Sunday evening, agents said that her former partner contacted them several times last week after recognizing her in footage shot during the Capitol siege by the British network ITV.

Her ex also claimed to have seen video of Williams taking the laptop from Pelosi’s office and claimed she had bragged that she intended to send it to a friend in Russia who would arrange for its transfer to the SVR, the Russian equivalent of the CIA.

That deal fell through, Williams’ ex told agents, according to charging documents in her case, and the laptop remains in Williams’ possession.

But by the time investigators tracked Williams down to the apartment she shares with her mother in Harrisburg on Saturday, she had already fled, the court filings state.

Williams’ mother told agents that a day earlier an ITV news crew showed up at her door, looking for her daughter after identifying her through online sleuthing.

In a segment that aired on the network Sunday, she confirmed for the reporters that her daughter was the woman seen in earlier footage they showed of the Capitol attack. In it, Williams was filmed directing other insurrectionists inside the Capitol rotunda toward a staircase leading to Pelosi’s office.

Dressed in a green T-shirt, glasses, and a brown coat with a zebra print bag slung over her shoulder, she can be seen shouting “Up the Stairs! Go!” as she pushes others onward.

But as that video began to spread online and people began to recognize her, Williams fled without saying where she was going, her mother told ITV.

“She’s actually gone,” she said. “She took off not only because of that (video). She figures if it’s out there, they’ll (the FBI) come to her about it.”

Williams’ mother described her daughter – an employee at the home health care agency Keystone Human Services – as an “empathetic and loving person,” who had taken a sudden interest in President Donald Trump’s politics and far-right message boards over the last year.

She rarely talked politics, her mother insisted. “It’s all about wanting America to get the correct information,” she said. Agents also interviewed Williams’ father, who lives in nearby Camp Hill, according to court records. He told them that he drove to Washington with his daughter to attend the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally, but maintained they had become separated during the day and he only caught up with her later that evening, when they met up to drive back to Harrisburg.

Williams’ purported role in the theft of Pelosi’s laptop remains under investigation, the FBI said. At the moment, she is charged only with unlawfully entering Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct – crimes punishable by up to a year in prison.

However, Pelosi’s chief of staff, Drew Hammill, confirmed on Twitter in the days after the attack that a laptop, primarily used for presentations, had been taken from a conference room in the House speaker’s office.

Williams’ whereabouts remained unclear Monday. Her mother told local law enforcement that she packed a bag, saying she would be gone for a couple of weeks. She also changed her phone number and deleted a number of social media accounts, the FBI said.

Her employer, Keystone Human Services, said in a statement that did not identify Williams by name that it was aware of accusations against one of its employees and that it was “coordinating with law enforcement and taking appropriate action in response.”

So far, federal authorities have charged more than 100 accused insurrectionists in the nearly two weeks since the riot, including four other Pennsylvania residents most of whom were turned in by friends or family members or implicated by photos and videos they posted online.

But Craig Bingert, the 29-year-old former State Police cadet from Lehigh County, told agents he proactively decided to give himself up after the FBI began circulating his photo online in an attempt to identify him.

The images, pulled from a Metropolitan Police officer’s body camera, show Bingert holding an American flag in one hand, while shoving a metal barrier with the other against officers struggling to keep him and the crowd of Trump supporters around him away from the Capitol building Jan. 6.

Other body cam footage, taken later that day, shows Bingert milling around the area, waving his flag, while the crowd around him chants “F–- the police.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Bingert, of Slatington, Pennsylvania, graduated from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration.

He joined the Pennsylvania State Police training academy in 2015. But state police spokesperson Ryan Tarkowski said Monday that Bingert “was separated” from the department in less than a week and never became a state trooper.

Tarkowski declined to discuss the circumstances behind Bingert’s sudden departure from the training facility.

Bingert is charged with obstructing police and could face up to five years in prison if convicted. Though his charging documents indicate he has an attorney who helped arrange for his surrender, they do not name the lawyer and it was not clear from court records who it might be.

Other Pennsylvania residents charged to date in the Capitol attack include Terry Brown, a retired code enforcement officer from Lebanon County, and Andrew Wrigley, a former Center City artist who recently moved to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Both men face charges including unlawfully entering the Capitol grounds.

The third man, Robert Sanford, a retired Chester firefighter, is accused of throwing a fire extinguisher that injured three Capitol Police officers during a melee on the buildings steps.