Some of the crimes committed in the Capitol riot are truly breathtaking. One of those was the alleged theft of the laptop belonging to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). That alone is extraordinary but now federal officials are alleging that Riley June Williams not only took the laptop but tried to sell it to the Russians. That allegation would ratchet up charges already including knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, violent entry, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Williams, 22, is a health care worker.
The FBI include extensive photos of Williams in the riot, which have also appeared on some media sites.Those photos will make some of the charges virtually impossible to refute. This includes a videotape of Williams allegedly stealing the laptop. There are also allegedly videos of Williams directing rioters up the stairs to Pelosi’s office. The media has also shown pictures purportedly showing Williams poising with an assault-like weapon though not at the riot itself. The riot pictures are clearly admissible. The other web pictures are likely to face a determined defense motion for exclusion due to their prejudicial impact.
However, it is the latest allegation that is so striking. In a court filing on Sunday, the FBI stated that a witness identifying himself as a former romantic partner said that Williams “intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.”
What I have not been able to determine is what steps were actually take by Williams to seek such a transfer to the Russians. It does not take much to establish such criminal conduct but the reports are vague on how or why the effort fell through. There is no suggestion that she actually made contact. However, the Speaker’s laptop could have some material that could be deemed classified. Even if classified at the confidential level, federal prosecutors could ramp up charges of a conspiracy for espionage or other national security violations. She may have lucked out however. A Pelosi staffer reported that a laptop was stolen from a conference room but was used only for presentations.
These videotapes show a spectrum of unlawful conduct. Some people are seen meandering around, seemingly surprised that they got inside. Others are in full riot, rummaging through papers and smashing mirrors. Yet, if these allegations are true, Williams made the mistake of her life in radically increasing her liability by taking that laptop. If she then took steps to sell it to the Russians, she could spend much of the rest of her life in prison.