N.J. man in Capitol siege news video arrested by the FBI – NJ.com

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Thomas Baranyi, a 28-year-old New Jersey man who was standing next to the woman who died in last week’s storming of the Capitol, was arrested by the FBI Tuesday evening and charged with disorderly or disruptive conduct.

In a brief video hearing before U.S. District Judge Cathy Waldor in Newark on Tuesday, the former Peace Corps member was charged with relatively minor offenses, but more serious charges may be pending. Bail was set at $100,000 and the matter moved to Washington, D.C., where all the cases involving the Capitol rampage are being handled. He was released on an unsecured bond.

In a criminal affidavit, an FBI special agent cited the widely circulated news interview that Baranyi gave in the wake of the attack, acknowledging his presence in the building.

In that interview with a reporter from WKRG, a CBS affiliate, Baranyi holds up his right hand to show a reporter the blood still there after he said he ambushed the Capitol building with other rioters and a woman next to him was killed.

“We had stormed into the chambers inside and there was a young lady who rushed through the windows,” Baranyi, 28, says in the two-minute interview, which has been widely shared on social media. “A number of police and secret service were saying, ‘Get back, get down, get out of the way.’ She didn’t heed the call, and as we kind of raced up to grab people, pull them back, they shot her in the neck.”

The woman was 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, a California native and Air Force veteran, her former husband told The Washington Post. She was one of five fatalities in Wednesday’s violent riots, three were from medical conditions.

The FBI affidavit quoted extensively from the news interview, noting that Baranyi stated, “It was a joke to them until we got inside, and then guns came out. But we’re at a point now, it can’t be allowed to stand. We have to do something. People have to do something.”

It added that Baranyi then held up his bloody hand again for the camera and stated, “because this could be you or your kids.”

The FBI agent, Cassidy Vreeland, said in the affidavit that a review of other video clips published online by the Washington Post that showed the shooting, as well as the minutes immediately before and immediately after, revealed a white male matching Baranyi’s New Jersey driver’s license photo, and wearing the same Giants sweatshirt and backpack that he was wearing in the WUSA interview that same day.

Baranyi was charged with “knowingly and willfully” joining a crowd of individuals who “forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted, and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.”

He was temporarily represented by a federal public defender, but indicated in court filings that he had retained counsel. His attorney’s name was not immediately known.

In a Facebook post, Baranyi’s father said his son graduated from the College of New Jersey, joined the Peace Corps, and also went into basic training for the U.S. Marine Corps but was discharged.

Federal prosecutors say their investigation of the rampage last Wednesday by a mob inspired by President Trump has already led to criminal charges against 70 people from across the country, including several who broke into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, carrying off records, a laptop and the speaker’s podium.

At least five people died, including Brian Sicknick, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who grew up in New Jersey.

“The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases is really unprecedented,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia on Tuesday afternoon, in the Justice Department’s first briefing to reporters since thousands of the president’s supporters smashed their way into the Capitol with the intent to stop lawmakers from tallying the Electoral College votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“The Capitol is essentially a crime scene,” said Sherwin. “We’re going to have I believe hundreds of criminal cases.”

He added that many have been charged with misdemeanors, but called that only a beginning, as they weigh more serious charges, noting that the range of criminal conduct included everything from trespass to theft of mail to assault on officers to the theft of national security information to felony murder and use excessive force.

They are also considering sedition charges against some of the Trump loyalists.

Another New Jersey man, Leonard Guthrie Jr. of Lower Township in Cape May County, is also facing charges. He was arrested for crossing a police barrier on the Capitol grounds, he said, and claims he was already in police custody when the mob forced its way into the Capitol building.

In an interview earlier this week, Guthrie told NJ Advance Media his motivations for going to Washington, D.C. that day were both political and religious. A self-described street preacher, he said he crossed a police barrier in an “act of civil disobedience” and was arrested as he tried to get close to the building. He said he did not try to go inside.

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Ted Sherman may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL.

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