This story was first published on March 16, 2021. This area of reporting is ongoing, and the database is being updated
(Harrisburg) — In the months leading up to and the months after the November election, Pennsylvania was a major focus of an intense disinformation campaign to convince supporters of former President Donald Trump that the results were rigged.
The lies surrounding “Stop the Steal” began during the summer and peaked on Jan. 6, when Trump told thousands at a rally that the election had been stolen, and urged them to march to the Capitol in protest. Hundreds of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, battered police officers and forced Congress from its chambers. The insurrectionists forced a delay in certifying Joe Biden’s win, marking the first time in the nation’s history the transfer of power would not be peaceful.
Busloads of Pennsylvanians traveled to Washington D.C. to attend Trump’s rally that preceded the riot. While the majority were peaceful, more than three dozen Pennsylvanians are among the more than 400 people have been arrested for participating in violent attack. The figure is among the highest of any state in the country.
They range in age from 22 years old to 69 years old and traveled to the nation’s capital from 28 different communites, including seven in central Pennsylvania (Lewistown, Palymra, Lancaster, Myerstown, Jonestown, Mechanicsburg and Harrisburg). Five men, including three from the midstate, had ties to law enforcement or the military. A trio of them invoked Trump in explaining or defending their actions. Four people are alleged to have ties to extremist or fringe groups.
U.S. Department of Justice
This collage of images from U.S. Department of Justice case records shows Pennsylvania residents involved in the Capitol attack, from top row, left to right: Paul Spigelmyer, Jackson Kostolsky, Andrew Wrigley, Dale Jeremiah Shalvey, Dawn Bancroft and Diana Santos-Smith, Jordan Robert Mink, Christy and Matthew Clark, Matthew Perna, Ryan Samsel, Riley June Williams, Richard Michetti and Joseph Fischer.
Several of the men and women with ties to the commonwealth, who attempted to overturn a fair and free election, are among the highest-profile cases under investigation by the FBI:
Leo Brent Bozell IV 41 years old Palmyra, Lebanon County
Bozell faces seven charges related to his activity during the attack. He can be seen in videos in and around the building wearing a Hershey Christian Academy sweatshirt. Court records detail Bozell’s alleged actions, and refer to photographs and video, including one that shows him jumping over a balcony railing in the U.S. Senate. He was also featured in footage chasing down a police officer, which was shown during Trump’s second impeachment trial. Bozell is the son of well-known conservative activist Brent Bozell III, who founded the Media Research Center and the Parents Television Council.
Julian Khater 32 years old Recently operated a smoothie franchise in State College, Centre County
Khater is facing multiple federal felony charges for an alleged assault that preceded the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick in the aftermath of a Jan. 6 Trump rally that ended with the storming of Congress. He is visible on surveillance footage and online videos of the day’s events approaching a police barricade. Khater is audible on a video indicating that he had been pepper sprayed by police and appears to retrieve a canister of bear mace or a similar chemical repellant from a friend’s backpack to retaliate. “Give me that bear ——,” Khater says. “They just ——— sprayed me.”
Rachel Marie Powell 40 years old Sandy Lake, Mercer County
Powell is accused of using a large pipe to break a window in the Capitol. She gained attention as the woman in a pink hat shown in video shouting instructions through a bullhorn. Authorities said a search of her house turned up several smashed cellphones and two “go bags,” one with ammunition, rope and duct tape and the other with throwing stars, knives and lighters. A bag found in Powell’s car had a tarp, zip ties and two loaded magazines for an AK-47 rifle, authorities said. She has been charged with violent entry or disorderly conduct, obstruction, depredation of government property, entering a restricted building and being in that building with a dangerous weapon.
Robert Sanford 55 years old Boothwyn, Delaware County
Sanford has been charged with assaulting three Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher. A widely circulated YouTube video captured the retired Chester firefighter allegedly throwing an extinguisher at a group of officers, while another still image shows a man at the rally with a hat emblazoned “CFD” — the initials of the Chester Fire Department. The memo indicates that a tipster, described as a longtime friend of the former firefighter, confirmed his identity in both pieces of media. He faces a battery of charges, including assaulting police officers, disorderly conduct, and knowingly entering a restricted area.
Riley June Williams 22 years old Harrisburg, Dauphin County
Williams faces charges that she helped steal a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. She was first identified after a former romantic partner told law enforcement she intended to sell the laptop to Russian intelligence. A federal judge released Williams into the custody of her mother, with travel restrictions. She is accused of theft, obstruction and trespassing, as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.