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FBI arrests Ryan Kelley, Michigan gubernatorial candidate, on charges stemming from Jan. 6

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 6/9/2022 Paul Egan, Arpan Lobo, Audra Gamble and Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press
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LANSING – The FBI raided the Allendale home of Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley on Thursday and arrested him on charges related to the 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Kelley was arrested "on misdemeanor charges stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol breach," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. He was arraigned in federal court in Grand Rapids later Thursday.

Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley exits the courthouse surrounded by a barrage of media and supporters after his arraignment in connection to Jan. 6 Thursday, June 9, 2022, at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building. © Cody Scanlan/Holland Sentinel Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley exits the courthouse surrounded by a barrage of media and supporters after his arraignment in connection to Jan. 6 Thursday, June 9, 2022, at the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building.

Kelley, 40, is charged with entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, disorderly and disruptive conduct, knowingly engaging in an act of physical violence against a person or property, and willfully injuring property, according to a criminal complaint.

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Generally, all of those misdemeanors carry penalties of up to one year in prison and fines of up to $100,000 on each charge.

Special Agent Mara Schneider, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, confirmed that federal agents used a search warrant to enter Kelley's home.

Kelley's arrest came just hours before a Democratic-led U.S. House committee was to hold its first public hearing related to its investigation into events surrounding the attack on the Capitol, while Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Kelley, who sells real estate, was at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. when protesters rioted and illegally entered the building on Jan. 6, 2021, though he never confirmed he went inside and has denied doing anything illegal.

He is one of five Republican candidates on the August primary ballot for governor, after five other candidates were disqualified.

Outside the home of Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley after the FBI raided the home and arrested Kelley on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Allendale, Michigan. © Audra Gamble, Holland Sentinel Outside the home of Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley after the FBI raided the home and arrested Kelley on Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Allendale, Michigan.

In an affidavit related to Thursday's complaint, an agent said Kelley was seen on video "wearing a black hat and a black coat ... in a crowd of people who are assaulting and pushing past law enforcement officers." Kelley also "climbed onto and stood on an architectural feature next to the North West stairs and indicated by waving his hand that the crowd behind him should move towards the stairs" leading into the building, the affidavit said.

The same person is seen in the Capitol courtyard and moving toward the entrance to the building, according to the FBI affidavit, which does not cite video evidence of Kelley inside the building.

"Just days after their field was cut in half due to corruption and mass fraud, Republican gubernatorial candidates’ callous disregard for the principles of democracy was on full display again today," said Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, in a statement.

More on Ryan Kelley: 5 facts about Michigan governor candidate

For subscribers: Michigan Republicans rally around Ryan Kelley after FBI arrest: Here's why

A Kelley campaign spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, though the words "political prisoner" appeared Thursday on Kelley's gubernatorial Facebook page.

Neighbors in Allendale had mixed opinions on Kelley. Speaking to reporters following his Thursday arrest, one neighbor called the arrest unsurprising.

"I know them a little bit, I think he's a phony, a fake," said Kenzi Gardiner, a lawyer who lives in the same neighborhood as Kelley. She said her son plays with Kelley's children.

"He puts up this front they're this perfect family and we know otherwise. It's just crazy. He's getting what he deserves, he went to a rally he wasn't supposed to be at. He did this to himself."

Another neighbor, Ben Miller, said he saw six to eight vehicles outside Kelley's home and noticed the law enforcement presence, which was unexpected in their quiet neighborhood.

"They're super nice, very pleasant people," Miller said. He didn't see Kelley's arrest.

Meshawn Maddock, co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, questioned why federal authorities would raid Kelley's home over misdemeanor charges.

"Democrats are out in force weaponizing our justice system and targeting their political opponents," Maddock said on Twitter.

Kelley’s only experience in government came in Allendale, where he was an appointed member of the township’s planning commission, starting in December 2019. He is no longer a planning commission member, according to the township's website.

In June 2021, the Michigan Democratic Party shared a video of Kelley outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 of that year. In the video, Kelley appears to shout: "Come on, let's go! This is it! This is — this is war, baby!" (WARNING: Explicit language)

Kelley's involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot had prompted some Allendale residents to call for his removal during township board meetings in January 2021. Kelley had also clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters in Allendale in the wake of George Floyd's murder in 2020.

Kelley also drew ire from residents for his defense of a controversial statue in the township’s Garden of Honor depicting a Confederate soldier as part of its Civil War memorial. Kelley organized multiple rallies around the statue, at one point garnering criticism for inviting William Null, one of the suspects facing felony charges in Antrim County's 86th District Court for his role in the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in October 2020.

Before the 2020 presidential election, Kelley suggested he tried to work with the FBI to argue Whitmer's pandemic orders violated the U.S. Constitution. Earlier this year on his Facebook page, Kelley posted, "(On) July 31, 2020 I met with the DOJ and FBI to discuss Whitmer’s violations to the Constitution. After that meeting I had several follow ups with US Attorneys and Special Agents. Then I began messaging the Speaker of the House and several other legislators multiple times calling for the impeachment of Whitmer." 

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2020, Ryan Kelley, a protest organizer, for the American Patriot Rally organized by the Michigan United for Liberty for the reopening of businesses stands on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. - The FBI arrested Kelley, leading Republican candidate for governor, June 9, 2022, in Michigan on charges of participating in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump. The Justice Department said Kelley took part in the violent attack on the Capitol that aimed to halt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election two months earlier. © JEFF KOWALSKY, AFP via Getty Images In this file photo taken on April 30, 2020, Ryan Kelley, a protest organizer, for the American Patriot Rally organized by the Michigan United for Liberty for the reopening of businesses stands on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan. - The FBI arrested Kelley, leading Republican candidate for governor, June 9, 2022, in Michigan on charges of participating in the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump. The Justice Department said Kelley took part in the violent attack on the Capitol that aimed to halt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory over Trump in the presidential election two months earlier.

However, Kelley has been increasingly critical of the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice since the Jan. 6 attack. He has criticized their roles in prosecuting participants in the riot and their prosecution of Michiganders accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer. 

"When do all the FBI billboards go up asking for identification/any information of the mules/organizations used to steal the 2020 election, like they did J6 protesters? Asking for every American that actually cares about our Republic," Kelley posted in May, alluding to a debunked video that alleges mass voter fraud in Michigan and other states. 

He also has repeatedly spread the conspiracy that Whitmer worked with the FBI to concoct the kidnapping plot against her, an unfounded accusation that gained steam after a jury acquitted two defendants and failed to reach any conclusion on others accused in the plot.

Fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke also appeared to imply possible misconduct by the FBI in Kelley's arrest, suggesting the federal agency timed its actions to correspond with the first public hearing of the congressional committee investigating the root causes of the Jan. 6 attack. 

"I respect Ryan Kelley and have met him out on the trail. My hope is that the FBI is acting appropriately, because the timing here raises serious questions. Praying for him and his family," Rinke tweeted Thursday morning. 

As of Monday, federal authorities have arrested more than 800 people in connection to the Jan. 6 assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Free Press staff writer Tresa Baldas contributed to this report.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: FBI arrests Ryan Kelley, Michigan gubernatorial candidate, on charges stemming from Jan. 6

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