By Michael Kunzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer | Associated Press
A man who joined the pro-Trump mafia that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday apologized to officers who protected the building after telling lawmakers he regrets being deceived by the former president’s electoral fraud lies.
During a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the insurgency, Stephen Ayres stated that he felt called by former President Donald Trump to come to Washington.
He described being dragged down by Trump’s false claims and believing as he marched to the Capitol on January 6, 2021 that Trump would join them there and that there were still chances that the election would be annulled.
“I felt like I had my goggles on. I’ve been locked up all the time,” said Ayres, who is scheduled to be convicted in September after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the riot. before it’s too late. “
“It changed my life,” he said. “And not for good.”
Ayres, who was not charged with violence or destruction on Jan. 6, said he worked for a cabinet company in northeast Ohio for 20 years, but lost his job and sold his home after the riot. At the sight his wife joined him.
After the hearing, Ayres approached the commission room officers who testified that they were verbally and physically assaulted by the angry crowd. Ayres apologized for his actions to Capitol police officers Aquilino Gonell and Harry Dunn, metropolitan police officer Daniel Hodges and former MPD officer Michael Fanone.
Agents seemed to have different responses to Ayres’ attempt to amend.
Fanone told The Associated Press that the apology was not necessary because “it does nothing for me.” Hodges told CNN he accepted the apology and added that “you have to believe there are people who can change.”
Gonell, who recently discovered that the wounds he succumbed to on Jan. 6 will no longer allow him to be part of the force, said he accepted Ayres’ sentiment, but it’s not for long.
“He still has to answer for what he did legally. And to his God. Then it’s up to him,” the former sergeant said.
Dunn, who did not stand up when Ayres approached him, said he does not accept his apology.
The Jan. 6 committee of the House of Representatives investigating the insurgency sought to use Ayres’ testimony to show how Trump’s Dec. 19, 2020, tweet calling on his supporters in Washington mobilized not only violent far-right extremist groups. , but also to the average American to attack the nation. capital.
Ayres described being a loyal follower of Trump on social media before Jan. 6 and said he felt he needed to heed the president’s call to go to Washington, DC, for the “Stop the Steal” rally.
“I’m very upset, like most of his supporters,” Ayres said when asked about Trump’s unfounded claims about the election. Asked by Rep. Liz Cheney if she still believes the election was stolen, Ayres said, “Not so much now.”
Ayres said he had no plans to storm the Capitol before Trump’s speech “angered everyone.” He believed the president would join them at the Capitol.
“Basically, we just followed what he said,” Ayres said.
Ayres said he and friends who accompanied him to Washington decided to leave the Capitol when Trump sent a tweet asking the mutineers to leave. If Trump had done that earlier in the day, “maybe we wouldn’t be in such a bad situation,” Ayres said.
Ayres said he is angry that Trump continues to make his false claims about the election.
“I was aware of every word he was saying,” he said. “Everything I was posting, I was following.”
His testimony echoed the words of many Capitol mutineers who expressed remorse for their crimes at sentencing hearings.
He is among about 840 people who have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 riot. More than 330 of them pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors punishable by no more than a year in prison. More than 200 were convicted.
In his court case, Ayres admitted that he drove from Ohio to Washington on the eve of the “Stop the Steal” demonstration to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College’s vote count. He entered the Capitol through the doors of the Senate wing and remained inside for about 10 minutes, joining other mutineers to sing.
In a Facebook post four days before the riot, Ayres attached an image of a poster that said “the president is asking us to return to Washington on January 6 for a major protest.”
In another Facebook post before the riot, he wrote: “The mainstream media, social media, the Democratic Party, the FISA courts, President John Roberts, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, etc … have all committed BETRAYAL against an incumbent president of the United States !! Now everyone is warned by ‘We The People’ “.
Associated Press reporters Farnoush Amiri, Mary Clare Jalonick and Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report from Washington.
Capitol rioter apologizes to officers after Jan. 6 testimony Source link Capitol rioter apologizes to officers after Jan. 6 testimony