FBI arrests Michigan GOP governor candidate

Ryan Kelley, one of five Republican candidates for Michigan governor and an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, was arrested by the FBI and charged with misdemeanors Thursday for his role in the 2021 postelection riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Kelley, 40, was arrested in western Michigan and awaits a court hearing in Grand Rapids, FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider said.

His arrest came hours before the House committee investigating the unrest will hold a prime time public hearing, showing never-seen video, audio, and an array of evidence highlighting the violence that erupted on Jan. 6, 2021.

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“Kelley is the first person running in a major state or federal race to be charged in conjunction with the attack,” The New York Times reported. Doug Mastriano, a candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, allegedly breached the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 but has not been charged with a crime.

There was no immediate comment from Kelley’s campaign.

It wasn’t clear why authorities decided to move against Kelley now. He has long acknowledged that he was at the riot but didn’t go inside the Capitol.

Yet nearly 18 months later, the government continues to charge more people.

In a court document available online, federal investigators filed photos of Kelley in a baseball cap worn backward rallying the crowd. According to the criminal complaint, Kelley had appeared in public before with that same outfit.

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“In May of 2020, KELLEY attended the American Patriot Council “Judgement Day” rally in Lansing, Michigan,” the complaint says. “During that event, KELLEY wore a backwards black hat, a blue shirt, and a black coat. Parts of this attire were also worn by KELLEY in photos and videos from the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6, 2021.”

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Kelley was recorded on video repeatedly waving to the crowd and directing them toward stairs leading into the building, the FBI said.

He used his phone to “film the crowd assaulting and pushing past U.S. Capitol police officers” and was in a crowd that climbed stairs to a Capitol entrance after causing police to retreat, the document states.

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Kelley, a real estate broker who lives in Allendale Township, is accused of disruptive conduct, injuring public property, and entering restricted space without permission, according to the criminal complaint.

He is among more than 800 people who are facing criminal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 riot. More than 300 people have pleaded guilty, largely to misdemeanor offenses punishable by no more than one year in prison. Some who’ve pleaded guilty to misdemeanors have been sentenced to short stints behind bars while most have been sentenced to home confinement or probation.

In Michigan, Kelley is one of five candidates on the Aug. 2 Republican primary ballot. The winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the fall. Whitmer, a governor from a swing state, earned national attention in  2020 for her strict rules intended to combat coronavirus.

His arrest further roils a GOP field that initially had 10 candidates. Five of them, including two front-runners, were dropped from the ballot because of forged signatures on their campaign petitions.

Kelley declined to participate in a Republican debate last week because organizers of the public policy conference on Mackinac Island required proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test.

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During the early months of the pandemic, he organized a protest at the Michigan Capitol, inviting militia members to gather inside the statehouse.

He told The Associated Press that the protesters were “law-abiding, lawful citizens that love this country, and maybe you get a couple of them that are bad apples. Question for you is, are bad apples pretty much in everything that we have as far as groups?”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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