State lawmaker charged after entering Capitol with rioters
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Republican West Virginia state lawmaker has been federally charged for entering a restricted area of the U.S. Capitol after he livestreamed himself rushing into the building with a mob of President Donald Trump's supporters.
Ken Kohl, a top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, announced the case against state Del. Derrick Evans on a call in which he presented dozens of new charges against members of the crowd that violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.
Evans, 35, appeared before a federal judge in Huntington, West Virginia, on Friday afternoon after being arrested. If convicted, he faces up to a year and a half in federal prison for two misdemeanors: entering a restricted area and disorderly conduct.
Federal Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert released him on his own recognizance. Wearing a hoodie and a face mask to protect against the coronavirus, Evans did not answer reporters’ questions as he left the courthouse and quickly got into a vehicle.
A growing number of Republicans and Democrats said they want to expel Evans from the legislature if he does not resign. His lawyer, John Bryan, said late Thursday that the lawmaker was acting as an amateur journalist recording the day’s events and that he was not involved in violence. He said Evans didn't commit a crime and doesn’t plan to step down. Bryan didn't comment on the charges Friday.
Video from television station WSAZ showed FBI agents escorting the handcuffed lawmaker from a home.
“He’s a fine man. And thank you, Mr. Trump, for inviting a riot at the White House,” a woman identifying herself as Evans’ grandmother told station reporters as her grandson was being taken into custody.
Legislators from at least seven other states traveled to Washington, D.C., to back Trump and demonstrate against the counting of electoral votes confirming Democrat Joe Biden's victory.
It's unknown if any other elected official joined the attack on the Capitol.
In Tennessee, legislation was introduced Friday that would require state authorities to investigate any resident who participated in Wednesday’s events. The proposal from Democratic state Rep. London Lamar also states that any “seditious and treasonous acts” at the U.S. Capitol by an elected official would constitute grounds for immediate removal.
The legislation comes days after Republican Tennessee state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver attended the demonstrations, which she described as “epic.” It’s unclear if Weaver entered the Capitol.
Evans joined and encouraged a crowd unlawfully entering the Capitol after days of telling his 30,000 Facebook followers to “Fight For Trump” in D.C. on Wednesday, FBI agent David DiMarco wrote in a criminal complaint.
Before the rush to the Capitol, Evans posted a video in which he said, “They’re making an announcement right now: If Pence betrays us you better get your mind right because we’re storming that building,” the charging documents state. He then laughs and adds, “I’m just the messenger, so don’t be hating on me.”
In a now-deleted video that was widely shared online, Evans is seen clamoring inside a jampacked Capitol building doorway, trying with others to push his way inside. He hollers along with other Trump loyalists and fist-bumps a law enforcement officer who let them in.
After pushing into the building, video shows Evans milling around the Capitol Rotunda, where historic paintings depict the republic’s founding, and imploring others to not vandalize artwork and busts. Some of the pieces were later vandalized.
“Our house!” Evans yells inside Capitol halls. “I don’t know where we’re going. I’m following the crowd.”
— Associated Press journalists Michael Balsamo in Washington, D.C., and Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.