Louisiana man among protesters that stormed Capitol Hill arrested, faces two federal criminal charges

Capitol Riots

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A Louisiana man was arrested Thursday on charges that he participated in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Vaughn A. Gordon, 50, of Lafayette, was arrested Thursday and booked into the St. Martin Parish Jail. He is now facing federal criminal charges.

Federal court records say during the riot, Gordon shared multiple Facebook posts, including selfies of himself in a pair of goggles at the U.S. capitol with the caption, “Live inside the Congress building. It was worth the tear gas.”

According to court documents, in one post, Gordon said he was walking towards the steps of the capitol when tear gas canisters went off around him. He said officers ushered people into the Capitol building, including himself. He said he was limited to the Rotunda area but claims he was never asked to leave. He also posted photos while inside the Capitol.

After returning home, Gordon told a crowd he was inside the U.S. Capitol for nearly two hours but did not take part in the violence. During his speech, he said, “You’re looking at what by mandate is a felon because I entered into the Capitol during the riot.”

An FBI special agent with the Washington field office investigated Gordon after receiving several tips.

Authorities said Gordon faces one count of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of parading, demonstrating, or picketing in the Capitol buildings. It was not immediately known if Gordon has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Gordon is set to appear before the District of Columbia on January 22 for further proceedings.

More arrests after Capitol riot

Pete J. Harding, 47, of Cheektowaga, New York appeared remotely in federal court on Saturday afternoon for about 20 minutes with U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy on charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Harding, who was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a friend’s house in Elma, is the first person from Western New York to be charged after being at the Capitol during the attack that left five people dead.

Last week, Harding admitted to NewsNation affiliate WIVB that he entered the Capitol building peacefully and did not cause any damage or act with any violence.

Photographers also captured video of Harding unsuccessfully using a Bic lighter to ignite a piece of plastic on a pile of smashed news media equipment on the Capitol lawn.

Pete Harding of Cheektowaga

Harding said he never intended to ignite the equipment on fire. Rather, he did it as a symbolic message to the news media, which he dislikes for what he described as unfair coverage of Trump and the election results.

Federal prosecutors raised concerns that similar activity might occur in the coming days ahead of the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. Therefore, they asked the judge to approve 10 conditions for Harding’s release. They include restricting his travel to only the Western District of New York and Washington, D.C. for only his court appearances, possessing no firearms, following electronic monitoring rules and participating in a computer and electronic devices monitoring program.

Harding’s attorneys, Jason DiPasquale and Jeremy Schwartz, objected to most of the restrictions, arguing that their client himself actually contacted the FBI earlier in the week and did not flee the area.

“These are misdemeanor charges, there’s nothing in the complaint or the facts thereof given rise to a risk of danger by clear and convincing evidence or otherwise that would need to be overcome by the more restrictive conditions,” Schwartz said. “I think a release on his own recognizance with the general conditions of not committing crimes while on release and reporting to probation and court as directed are sufficient.”

Federal prosecutors said the more restrictive conditions are necessary based on comments Harding made on a Facebook live video after he returned from the Capitol.

In addition, the prosecutor said Harding left his Cheektowaga home sometime in the late evening on Tuesday, around the time the FBI released a poster of his photograph with requests for the public to contact them with any additional information. Therefore, Harding made himself unavailable to authorities.

“Moreover, your honor, the court is aware from the complaint, the defendant knowingly took part in or was a member of a group that entered the Capitol building on January 6 with the intent of disrupting the Constitutional process of certifying the Electoral College votes,” the prosecutor said.

“There is a particularly acute risk of similar conduct in the coming days and after the January 6 riot, the defendant posted on his Facebook, he posted things that expressed a desire to engage in similar conduct in the future and I am quoting, ‘We learned how strong we are, we learned how strong our voices are, we learned how strong our numbers are. If we can take the Capitol building, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.’”

DiPasquale said Harding may have left his house but he did not leave the state or even the same county despite knowing that charges against him appeared imminent.

“He went peacefully with the FBI, he was fully cooperative in the process with the FBI, did not resist in any manner,” DiPasquale said. “He is taking these charges very seriously; he’s got two attorneys present with him this afternoon.”

DiPasquale said Harding has significant ties to the community, owns two homes in Western New York, and both his parents, brother and adult daughter live locally.

“There’s no indication that he does pose a flight risk or that he would flee the area in the interim,” DiPasquale said. “Mr. Harding has no prior history of engaging in the alleged riots or acts that he’s charged with. In fact, he’s organized and participated in numerous peaceful, civil demonstrations in the Western New York area.”

Most notably, Harding was one of the organizers of a recent protest in front of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s home in Buffalo.

“Mr. Harding believes that the evidence as the case will bear out that his intention in being there was to protest peacefully and that his actions were peaceful in nature and non-violent while in there,” DiPasquale said.

McCarthy sided with federal prosecutors, saying that the location and electronic monitoring conditions are reasonable under the suggestions that there may be similar events in the near future

“I’m not suggesting whether or not Mr. Harding will participate in those events,” the judge said.

Harding’s next court appearance is remotely at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where his case will be handled.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliates KLFY and WIVB contributed to this report.

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