Delegate who broke into Capitol face charges as calls for removal continue
CHARLESTON — Derrick Evans, the incoming member of the West Virginia House of Delegates who recorded himself breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday with a mob to halt the certification of the presidential election, is facing criminal charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that Evans was one of more than 50 people charged with crimes linked to the storming of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Evans faces two charges: knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Both charges are misdemeanors.
“The lawless destruction of the U.S. Capitol building was an attack against one of our Nation’s greatest institutions,” said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, said Friday in a statement.
“My Office, along with our law enforcement partners at all levels, have been expeditiously working and leveraging every resource to identify, arrest, and begin prosecuting these individuals who took part in the brazen criminal acts at the U.S. Capitol,” Sherwin continued. “We are resolute in our commitment to holding accountable anyone responsible for these disgraceful criminal acts, and to anyone who might be considering engaging in or inciting violence in the coming weeks – know this: you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gov. Jim Justice read off the charges Friday as they were announced during the end of his coronavirus briefing.
“I think it’s terrible,” Justice said. “It’s a scar on West Virginia. (Evans) can come up with any excuse in the world but being there and rushing and entering the Capitol of the United States of America, how in the world can we possibly think that’s anything but bad stuff.”
John Bryan, Evans’ attorney, said he had not seen the charges yet Friday afternoon and could not comment yet. WSAZ-TV showed video of Evans being taken into custody Friday afternoon. He was arraigned and released on a personal recognizance bond.
Bryan issued a statement Thursday on behalf of Evans, a newly elected Republican delegate for Wayne County who is also facing calls to resign or be expelled from the House of Delegates. Bryan said Evans committed no crimes Wednesday, only acting as an observer and claiming journalistic protections. Evans traveled with a group of West Virginians for a “Stop The Steal” rally in Washington D.C. challenging the election results that say President Donald Trump lost and former vice president Joe Biden was President-elect.
“Mr. Evans did nothing wrong on January 6, 2021,” Bryan wrote. “He was exercising his First Amendment rights to peacefully protest and film a historic and dynamic event. He engaged in no violence, no rioting, no destruction of property, and no illegal behavior.”
Evans posted videos Wednesday from the protest on his Facebook page, called “Derrick Evans – The Activist.” He later deleted a video showing him and others gaining entry to the Capitol Building through a door. At one point, Evans yells “open the door,” “Whose house? Our House,” and “Trump, Trump, Trump.” Evans and the mob pushed their way through the door and into the rotunda. Evans’ Facebook – which had been live as of Thursday – had been deleted as of Friday.
Hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building after being incited by Trump at the “Stop the Steal” rally, causing lawmakers to evacuate, press and staff to shelter in place, and causing damage to the chambers and offices within. A U.S. Capitol Police officer died after being hit with a fire extinguisher, while four of the insurrectionists died, including a woman who was shot.
After law enforcement and National Guard troops cleared the building, Congress resumed with certifying the Electoral College votes into early Thursday morning, with Biden receiving the most votes. More than 24 hours after the mob first rushed the Capitol, Trump released a video conceding the election and decrying the violence after previous statements that appeared to compliment the mob.
Bryan, in his statement, claimed that Evans was unaware of the worst of the violence and vandalism by some of the insurgents.
“Mr. Evans absolutely was not part of the main body of protestors who were on the West side of the U.S. Capitol, or elsewhere,” Bryan wrote. “He had no knowledge at the time of what was happening on the other side of the complex, nor inside the Capitol after the other group forcibly entered. At no point was Mr. Evans located in the crowd on the West side of the building, nor anywhere else on the Capitol grounds, where violence and destruction of property was, or had been, occurring.”
The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating the attack and are accepting photos and videos that can help them identify anyone who entered the Capitol Building. West Virginia’s two U.S. Attorneys also released statements that they were open to prosecuting cases should it be found any West Virginians were involved with the storming of the Capitol.
According to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Evans was one of 10 lawmakers from other states who were either inside the Capitol Building or encouraging the crowd outside.
A growing chorus of state lawmakers are also calling on Evans to resign or for the House of Delegates to take action against Evans, including expelling him from the House. Delegates Ben Queen, R-Harrison, and Josh Higginbotham, R-Putnam, called on Evans to resign, as did former delegate and incoming state Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha.
Bryan said Evans would not resign.
“Derrick Evans takes his responsibility and oath as the duly elected voice of the people of West Virginia House District 19 extremely seriously. His constituents knew that they were electing an activist to the office,” Bryan wrote. “…Delegate Derrick Evans will not be resigning his public office. He stands firmly behind the right of every American to be considered innocent until proven guilty. He committed no criminal act that day.”
Minority leaders of both the House and the state Senate also called for Evans to resign or be removed from office. House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, released a statement to that effect Wednesday. On Thursday, Skaff wrote a letter to House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, urging him not to seat Evans for violating his oath to serve and protect both the U.S. and West Virginia constitutions.
“Delegate Evans conspired, abetted and, if only temporarily, succeeded in physically attacking and impeding this constitutional process as part of an insurrection upon the U.S. Capitol,” Skaff wrote. “His actions unequivocally disqualify him from holding public office in this state and make him ineligible to be seated as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates.”
Article 6 section 24 of the West Virginia Constitution empowers the house to “determine the rules of its proceedings and be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.” Section 25 allows the House or state Senate to “punish its own members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected thereto, expel a member, but not twice for the same offence.”
The Legislature meets Wednesday, Jan. 13, at noon for an organizational meeting to elect a House Speaker, Senate President, and deal with other organization matters. That would be the earliest time a resolution to expel Evans could be brought.