A lawyer from New York who was previously involved with a group that pushes conspiracy theories related to 9/11 in court was arrested by the FBI this week after investigators determined he fought with police during the Capitol riot.
The newly arrested rioter, John O’Kelly, was charged with two felony offenses, including assaulting law enforcement and interfering with police during a civil disorder. His confrontation with officers took place outside of the Capitol shortly after members of the mob first made it inside the building. O’Kelly attempted to seize a baton from one of the officers on the Capitol’s West Front, and after he was unsuccessful, he “then took a step back and pushed a metal bike rack being used to secure the perimeter into the line of officers,” the Justice Department says. Participants in the chaos used a broad variety of items in their assault. Other rioters were, for instance, successful in taking some of the officers’ gear. Albuquerque Head, a rioter who participated in the assault of then-D.C. officer Michael Fanone and who prosecutors said should receive eight years in prison, also used a stolen riot shield against police, as did others.
Investigators got a tip about O’Kelly in July of last year. “The tipster stated he/she used open source photo ID software to search the FBI BOLO pictures and identified O’Kelly as a likely match to BOLO #294,” a court filing explains. In their subsequent investigation, the FBI also used facial recognition software, comparing New York driving records with images from the Capitol. The investigation also used a photo of O’Kelly from the website of the 9/11 conspiracies group with which he was previously affiliated. In addition, agents heard from “a longtime friend of the O’Kelly family who knows John O’Kelly personally,” and the individual — who wasn’t further identified — confirmed O’Kelly’s identity and gave the FBI O’Kelly’s wife’s and son’s phone numbers. O’Kelly was also surveilled as recently as earlier this month. The lawyer was among the rioters targeted by Sedition Hunters, an online group conducting civilian investigations into the identities of Capitol violence participants. Before his name was known, the group called him “#MidWhiteCrisis.”