Capitol Rioter Case Believed to be First Dropped by the DOJ

The Justice Department has dropped criminal charges filed against a New York man alleged to have taken part in the U.S. Capitol riot. It is believed to be the first such case dismissed by federal prosecutors, the Associated Press reported.

Christopher M. Kelly's case dismissal was announced Wednesday, coinciding with a guilty plea by a Florida man who carried a Trump 2020 flag into the Capitol on January 6. The man, who faces a felony charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, is the second of over 450 facing charges after the Capitol riot to plead guilty.

Kelly was also charged with obstructing an official proceeding following his January 20 arrest in New York, in addition to counts of aiding and abetting, violent entry and disorderly conduct and unlawful entry to restricted buildings or grounds. An FBI affidavit said that Kelly used a Facebook account to announce he had broken into the Capitol on January 6.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui made the decision to drop Kelly's case after he and the defendant's lawyer agreed it would "serve the interests of justice" in light of the details available to the government. While Faruqui didn't provide any additional insight on the dismissal, the judge's decision to drop the case "without prejudice" leaves room for the DOJ to seek to rekindle Kelly's charges.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Capitol Riot Case
The Justice Department has dropped criminal charges filed against a New York man alleged to have taken part in the U.S. Capitol riot. It is believed to be the first such case dismissed by federal prosecutors. Above, U.S. Capitol Police try to hold back rioters outside the east doors to the House side of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

More than two dozen leaders, members and associates of the far-right Proud Boys group have been charged in the riots, which interrupted the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory over then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Kelly has a brother who is a retired New York City police officer, the FBI agent noted.

Meanwhile, a Florida man who carried a Trump 2020 flag while in the U.S. Senate during the riot pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding.

Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, wore protective goggles under his chin and a Trump shirt while standing nearby as other rioters prayed and shouted from the Senate dais. Trump had told his supporters before the siege to "fight like hell" to overturn his defeat.

Prosecutor Mona Sedky said Hodgkins knew he wasn't supposed to be in the Capitol and acted with intent to corruptly influence a government proceeding.

The judge asked whether the description of facts read aloud by the prosecutor was correct. "Yes, Your Honor," Hodgkins said.

Hodgkins, who has no prior convictions, faces 15 to 21 months in prison under the sentencing guidelines. His sentencing was set for July 19.

The first person to plead guilty in the riot was a member of the Oath Keepers far-right militia group. Jon Ryan Schaffer, a heavy metal guitarist, has also agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Schaffer pleaded guilty in April to two counts: obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon. He admitted being one of the first people to forcibly enter the Capitol after the mob broke open a set of doors guarded by Capitol Police.

Jan. 6 Commission
The Justice Department has dropped criminal charges filed against a New York man alleged to have taken part in the U.S. Capitol riot. It is believed to be the first such case dismissed by federal prosecutors. Above, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) squeezes past a group of reporters after stepping off the Senate Floor at the U.S. Capitol on May 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The Senate failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the legislation that would approve the formation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6, 2021, attack. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images