Federal prosecutors revealed Tuesday that for the first time they have dropped criminal charges against an individual accused of participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Christopher Kelly of New York is the first among more than 450 people charged in the Capitol attack to have the Justice Department withdraw the case.
Mr. Kelly, who was arrested two weeks after the riot, was charged with unlawful entry, obstruction of an official proceeding, and other offenses.
Prosecutors on Tuesday notified the judge in Mr. Kelly’s case that they planned to drop the charges. The filing did not provide an explanation for the government’s decision, only saying that it “serves the interests of justice.”
“The government and defense counsel have discussed the merits of the case, and upon reflection of the facts currently known to the government, the government believes that dismissal without prejudice at this time serves the interests of justice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tejpal Chawla wrote.
Edward McMahon Jr., an attorney for Mr. Kelly, did not return requests for comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.
Mr. Kelly was pictured shirtless and holding an American flag outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to court documents.
A confidential informant tipped off the FBI about Mr. Kelly, providing investigators with information posted to his Facebook account, according to court documents.
The informant gave the FBI a screenshot of a Facebook group chat before the riot, in which Mr. Kelly appeared to discuss traveling to Washington to protest former President Trump’s election loss.
“I’ll be with ex NYPD and some proud boys. This will be the most historic event of my life,” he wrote, prosecutors said.
Other messages Mr. Kelly purportedly sent through Facebook suggest he had entered the Capitol during the riot. In an exchange on Jan. 6, someone asked him if he was inside.
“Sure spread the word, Taking this back by force now, no more bs,” Mr. Kelly wrote back, according to court documents.
“We’re inside! Hearing stopped, sending everyone to the basement,” Mr. Kelly messaged another person on Facebook, the papers say, likely referring to Congress stopping the certification of President Biden’s election victory and evacuating.
Although Mr. Kelly is the first riot suspect to have charges dropped, it is expected that other cases will be dropped as prosecutors negotiate plea deals.