Woman accused over Pelosi laptop theft freed from jail ahead of court hearing

21 January 2021, 16:44

Riley June Williams
Capitol Breach-Laptop. Picture: PA

Riley June Williams was released into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed to appear on Monday in federal court.

A woman facing charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the attack on the US Capitol will be released from jail, a federal judge has decided.

US Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson released Riley June Williams into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions, and instructed her to appear on Monday in federal court in Washington to continue her case.

Williams, 22, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

During the hearing, Judge Carlson said the “gravity of these offences is great, it cannot be overstated”.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (J Scott Applewhite/AP)

But he noted Williams has no prior criminal record.

The FBI says an unidentified former romantic partner of Williams tipped them off that she appeared in video from the January 6 rioting and the tipster claimed she had hoped to sell the computer to Russian intelligence.

Williams’ defence lawyer Lori Ulrich told Judge Carlson the tipster is a former boyfriend who had been abusive to Williams and that “his accusations are overstated”.

Video from the riot shows a woman matching Williams’ description exhorting invaders to go “upstairs, upstairs, upstairs” during the attack, which briefly disrupted certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

“It is regrettable that Ms Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” Ulrich told the judge.

Williams surrendered to face charges on Monday.

She was expected to leave the county jail in Harrisburg later, and will be on electronic monitoring to await trial.

Williams did not respond to questions as a federal marshal led her in handcuffs out of the courtroom.

A view of the new sign marking the office for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., from inside the US Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The new sign replaces the one that was destroyed when rioters stormed the Capitol
The new sign marking the office of Nancy Pelosi, replacing the one that was destroyed when rioters stormed the Capitol (Susan Walsh/AP)

Judge Carlson made direct reference to the attack on the Capitol, saying a howling crowd tried unsuccessfully to prevent the peaceful transition of power.

“It has been honoured by generations of Americans for 232 years,” he said.

“It has become so commonplace that we often think very little of it.”

In adding the theft-related charges on Tuesday, a Virginia-based FBI agent said Williams was recorded on closed-circuit cameras in the Capitol going into and coming out of Ms Pelosi’s office.

The agent’s affidavit said a mobile phone video that was likely shot by Williams shows a man’s gloved hand lifting an HP laptop from a table, and the caption read, “they got the laptop”.

Ms Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill has said a laptop used only for presentations was taken from a conference room.

The current location of the computer has not been disclosed in court documents, and was not discussed in court on Thursday.

By Press Association