The FBI has announced that a tip coming from the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office led to the arrest and criminal charging of a Maryland man connected to the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January. Robert Maurice Reeder of Harford County, Maryland is accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and knowingly entering the Capitol building without authorization, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on February 24, 2021. A recent report indicates that the FBI became aware of Reeder’s participation in the deadly Capitol riots when the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office in Bel Air, Maryland notified the agency that facial recognition software had identified Reeder and another Maryland resident as possible matches to a photo released by the agency on January 7, 2021. Reeder was arrested in Maryland and his case joins dozens of other cases of insurrectionists facing criminal charges for the part they allegedly played in the unprecedented Capitol riots.
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What Happened During the Capitol Riots?
The riots at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. took place on January 6, 2021, during a joint session of the U.S. Congress, in which elected members of the Senate and House of Representatives gathered in separate chambers of the Capitol building for the purpose of certifying the Electoral College vote count for the 2020 Presidential Election. The joint session began at approximately 1:00pm, and while the certification proceedings were underway, a large crowd began assembling outside the Capitol building. About one hour into the proceedings, individuals from the crowd entered the Capitol by force, penetrating barricades, breaking windows, and assaulting U.S. Capitol Police officers, as others in the crowd chanted “USA!” and “Fight for Trump!” and encouraged or assisted the acts.
Video footage captured during the storming of the Capitol showed dozens of individuals inside the building without the authority to be there. The Capitol was placed under lockdown and the members of the Senate and House of Representatives were evacuated as protestors occupied and ransacked the building. Five people were killed in the chaos that ensued, including one Capitol Police officer and four protestors, and more than 100 others were injured. In the hours leading up to the breach, then-President Donald Trump had hosted a “Save America” rally on the Ellipse Grounds south of the White House. The rally was attended by thousands of Trump followers, the same followers who then marched on the Capitol in support of the president, in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, which Trump had claimed was stolen from him.
FBI Asks for Help in Identifying Participants in Capitol Riot
Following the events of January 6, 2021, the FBI issued bulletins seeking information about the Capitol breach and asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the individuals involved. On or around January 19, 2021, Robert Maurice Reeder reportedly contacted the government through his attorney and provided a 22-minute video compilation of footage he took on his cell phone during the riot. The video shows Reeder in a “Make American Great Again” hat at the National Mall, in front of the Capitol building, and then inside the building. According to court documents, Reeder says in the video, “I was in there for over half an hour. I got gassed several times inside the Capitol, many times outside the Capitol. Got shot with pepper balls. It was f—— nuts. We had to do…ah… battle with the Police inside. It was crazy…absolutely insane.” Reeder also recorded an assault on a Capitol Police officer.
Harford County State’s Attorney Albert Peisinger declined to make any specific statements regarding Reeder’s arrest and criminal charges, indicating that the matter is ongoing, but did note that his office is cooperating with the investigation. “The Office of the State’s Attorney for Harford County cooperates with any and all federal investigations and inquiries and based upon that any other questions would have to be referred to the FBI,” Peisinger said. In addition to Reeder, at least six other Maryland residents have been charged in connection with the Capitol breech, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has stated. Residents of other states have also been arrested and charged for their participation in the riots, including those from New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Arkansas.
Criminal Charges Brought Against Capitol Insurrectionists
The 180 insurrectionists implicated in the Capitol riots are facing a number of criminal charges related to violent entry, disorderly and disruptive conduct, weapons offenses, and other crimes allegedly committed at the U.S. Capitol building. According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Reeder is facing charges for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) and (2), which makes it a crime to:
“(1) knowingly enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do; and (2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions; or attempts or conspires to do so.”
Reeder is also facing charges for violating 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D) and (G), which makes it a crime to:
“willfully and knowingly (D) utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place in the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session of Congress or either House of Congress, or the orderly conduct in that building of a hearing before, or any deliberations of, a committee of Congress or either House of Congress; and (G) parade, demonstrate, or picket in any of the Capitol Buildings.”
The Justice Department’s record of “Capitol Breach Cases” identifies the myriad criminal charges brought against other Capitol protestors, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Obstruction of an official proceeding
- Parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building
- Theft of government property
- Aiding and abetting
- Entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon
- Obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder
- Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees
- Unlawful possession of a firearm on Capitol grounds or buildings
- Carrying a pistol without a license outside home or place of business
- Possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device
The individuals implicated in the Capitol riots have been charged in federal court in the District of Columbia and every Capitol breach case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Potential Penalties for Crimes Related to Capitol Breach
Nearly every day since the storming of the Capitol took place nearly two months ago, the list of people arrested and charged with federal crimes for their alleged participation in the attack has grown longer. According to the latest numbers, more than 300 people from at least 42 states have been charged with federal crimes for their role in the storming of the Capitol building and more than 280 have been arrested. These defendants stand to face significant penalties if they are found guilty of the crimes the government has levied against them. Consider the following penalties for the crimes Robert Maurice Reeder has been charged with:
- The punishment for violating or attempting or conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) and (2) is a fine and imprisonment for up to one year, or up to 10 years if a deadly or dangerous weapon was used or if the crime results in significant bodily injury.
- The punishment for committing a violation of or attempting to commit a violation of 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D) and (G) is a fine and imprisonment for up to six months.
Seeking Legal Guidance for Your Federal Criminal Case
It is important to remember that a criminal complaint is merely an accusation, not a finding of guilt. All defendants in criminal cases, including the federal Capitol breach cases, are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court of law. If you are facing criminal charges for a federal offense, it is imperative that you seek legal guidance from a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with experience handling federal cases. The ramifications of a guilty verdict in a criminal case involving the federal government can extend to every part of your personal and professional life and you do not want to go up against the government on your own. As the FBI continues its investigation into the Capitol riots, the number of people arrested and charged with crimes is expected to grow exponentially. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can help you navigate every aspect of your criminal case and guide you towards the best possible resolution based on your specific situation.