ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ryan Kelley, one of the Republican candidates for Michigan governor, was arrested Thursday morning on misdemeanor charges in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Kelley, 40, of Allendale, was charged in federal court for knowingly entering or remaining on the U.S. Capitol or its grounds without authority, disorderly and disruptive conduct in that space, knowingly engaging in any physical violence against persons or property on U.S. Capitol grounds and willfully injuring or attacking property of the United States, court documents say. He was later released on bail.
“In this case, the FBI received multiple tips regarding Ryan Kelley’s presence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021,” a document written by the FBI and submitted to the court says.
Those tips were both anonymous and from people who left their names. They came in online and through the FBI tip line. An FBI source also identified one of the people seen at the Capitol as Kelley.
In the document, federal investigators included photos of Kelley in a backward baseball cap trying to rally a crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump. The FBI said an Ottawa County sheriff’s deputy who knows Kelley from patrolling the Allendale Township area identified Kelley in photos from the riot. So did another Allendale Township official who knows Kelley.
The FBI says images show Kelley recording the crowd pushing past Capitol Police outside the building on the northwestern scaffolding.
“At approximately 2:00 p.m., KELLEY climbed onto and stood on an architectural feature next to the North West stairs and indicated by waving his hand that the crowd behind him should move towards the stairs leading into the U.S. Capitol building,” the document reads in part.
The document does not say Kelley entered the building but indicates he moved onto the stairs and then climbed onto “an architectural feature” next to the stairs.
“This activity was also captured on CCV, showing KELLEY using his hands to support another rioter who is pulling the metal barricade onto the scaffolding,” the document continues.
“…At approximately 2:05 p.m., (Kelley) used his hands to pull a covering off of a temporary structure that U.S. Capitol personnel had erected in support of a future planned event,” the FBI alleged.
“At approximately 2:20 p.m., KELLEY continued to gesture to the crowd, consistently indicating that they should move towards the stairs that led to the entrance of the U.S. Capitol interior spaces,” the document continues.
Federal investigators cited surveillance video and images from the media.
“At approximately 2:25 p.m., the individual in the black hat (believed to be Kelley) uses his cell phone to take a picture of blood on an architectural feature at the U.S. Capitol Grounds, while standing on same, in a video posted to YouTube,” the document reads. “…At about 2:29 p.m. the individual arrives at the top of the stairs and enters the U.S. Capitol’s North West Courtyard and uses their thumb to motion towards the doors to the interior of the U.S. Capitol Building.”
Shortly thereafter, the document said, Capitol Police had reorganized and were starting to eject people from the area. Kelley last appears to have been seen at the U.S. Capitol around 3:26 p.m.
The FBI complaint goes on to outline Kelley’s well-documented opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and opinions that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election from Trump.
Kelley’s suburban Allendale neighbors say the FBI raid happened around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, saying they were in awe of the commotion outside the candidate’s home.
“Probably six to eight vehicles out front, just along the road, all unmarked, sheriff’s department in uniform and FBI,” said Ben Miller, who has lived near the Kelley’s for the last year and a half.
He said he did not see Kelley in handcuffs and did not know he was going to be arrested.
Other neighbors recorded video of what appear to be FBI vehicles at the home. In the background, they can be heard discussing how the officials are wearing FBI jackets.
“They were walking around and looking around. But it was very pleasant. The Kelleys were walking around and being helpful with everything they were doing,” Miller said.
Miller says he and Kelley never discussed politics, but a different neighbor who wished to remain anonymous told me that Kelley does not shy away when talking about the Jan. 6 riot.
News 8 crews outside Kelley’s home saw a basketball hoop in the driveway and toys on the front lawn. A large flag reading “Ryan Kelley for governor” waved nearby the house.
CAMPAIGN MANAGER: ARREST IS ‘INTIMIDATION TACTIC’
As Kelley had his first court hearing in Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon, a crowd of his supporters gathered outside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building downtown. He was released soon afterward on a personal recognizance bond.
His family was in the courtroom with Kelley. After he was released, they walked him out to loud cheers from supporters. He shouted “USA” and thanked supporters for coming.
News 8 saw Kelley come back to his home in Allendale following his release. When asked for a comment, he told the reporter to leave.
“This is where my wife and kids live. Please leave the neighborhood,” Kelley said.
A post on his campaign Facebook page read simply, “Political Prisoner.”
Kelley’s campaign manager Karla Wagner told News 8 that the charges are “all about the election that’s coming up.” She called his arrest an “intimidation tactic.”
“I think this is a very calculated movement on the part of whether it’s the Democrats, whether it’s (Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer, (Michigan Attorney General) Dana Nessel, (Michigan Secretary of State) Jocelyn Benson — they all have reason to not like him, and I think this is part of it,” Wagner said.
The arrest was carried out by federal agents. Nessel’s office told News 8 Thursday morning it was not involved in the case.
Wagner said that since five candidates were left off the Republican primary ballot over signature irregularities, Kelley has come a “frontrunner,” citing strong grassroots support. She said Kelley has never hidden the fact that he attended a pro-Trump rally in D.C. on Jan. 6.
“He talks about it all the time,” she said.
She said his goal was to draw attentions to his concerns that the election was “stolen” — a baseless and repeatedly debunked claim.
“Ryan has been fighting since April 2020 against Whitmer’s lockdowns (due to COVID-19), so he has been in her face and think she just doesn’t like it and I think she sees him as a very strong opponent … and she wants him gone,” Wagner said.
She called Kelley “a man of integrity.”
Kelley is a real estate broker. He was previously an Allendale Township planning commissioner but no longer serves on any township board.
He has been questioned in the past about his connection to militia groups and for encouraging prospective poll workers to tamper with voting machines during a January 2022 livestream.
“My message was if individuals working the election expect fraud, that they repair the injury,” Kelley told News 8 after that stream. “I stand by that 100%. The left is mad that we are taking control of the narrative and we will not let them steal another election.”
Shortly after the stream, Republican Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck called Kelley’s misinterpretation of election laws are concerning and potentially harmful to democracy.
LEGAL EXPERT: ‘IT COULD GO QUICKLY NOW’
Retired Brigadier Gen. Michael McDaniel, a constitutional law professor at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, told News 8 that even though it took over a year to arrest Kelley, the legal process could go quite quickly.
“There are a lot of reasons, potentially, why it took 16 or 17 months to bring … one-year misdemeanor charges against Ryan Kelley,” McDaniel said.
He thinks the most likely scenario is that there was a large amount of evidence the FBI had to work through.
“It could go quickly now. If, in fact, he (Kelley) insists on a trial, then that is going to require more time for this to play out,” he added.
McDaniel said the four misdemeanors each carry a one-year charge. He expects that even if Kelley is convicted on all four counts, he would serve them all at the same time.
He said that it is interesting that Kelley was only charged with misdemeanors. He explained that the Department of Justice has been charging people involved with the Jan. 6 riots starting with the smallest misdemeanors, dealing with about 400 cases, and moving upward towards individuals “engaged in seditious conspiracy or similar charges,” he said.
“This is sort of a throwback to the early days where they were looking at individuals and had entered restricted areas of the Capitol and had engaged in some destruction of property within that building. So we are sort of left to speculate, which I hate to do, as to why we see one of the more smaller charges,” McDaniel said.
He said Kelley’s charges coming so late is most likely due to the large amount of evidence the FBI had to go through and analyze, including photo and video tips.
Since ballots are already printed, Kelly will still be on the ballot in November’s gubernatorial race.
“I guess, really, at this point, it’s up to the Michigan Republican Party and up to the voters in the primary,” McDaniel said.
MI REPUBLICAN PARTY: DEMS ‘WEAPONIZING’ JUSTICE SYSTEM
The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Ambassador Ron Weiser, released a statement about the arrest of Ryan Kelley on Thursday evening:
“Democrats are weaponizing our justice system in an unprecedented way against their political opponents. We are not a third world nation. Law and order are the bedrock of our democracy, but justice is not served when it is driven by a political agenda. Families and children are now becoming victims of political theater meant to distract from the failures of Democrat policy. It’s shameful and must end.”
The release included a link to a RealClearPolitics article that features a video of President Joe Biden joking with late night show host Jimmy Kimmel about sending his political opponents “to jail,” referring to a game of Monopoly.
— News 8’s David Horak and Byron Tollefson contributed to this post.