‘Looks can be deceiving,’ DOJ argues at trial of Jan. 6 rioter charged with aiding Pelosi laptop theft

'Looks can be deceiving,' DOJ argues at trial of Jan. 6 rioter charged with aiding Pelosi laptop theft

WASHINGTON — A federal prosecutor told jurors that “looks can be deceiving” as he urged them to convict a young woman charged with aiding the theft of a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s conference room during the Jan. 6 attack.

Riley June Williams, a 23-year-old Pennsylvania woman affiliated with the extremist “Groyper” movement, is facing eight counts in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Opening statements in Williams’ trial began Tuesday after the jury was seated. The jury is mostly white, with one Black male among the 12 jurors and two alternates.

Williams is charged with obstructing, impeding, and interfering with law enforcement officers during civil disorder; obstructing an official proceeding; assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering with law enforcement officers inside the Capitol building; stealing government property; and four misdemeanor charges faced by defendants who entered the Capitol.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon told jurors during opening statements that Williams “doesn’t look like a rioter,” noting her small stature and age, but said that “looks can be deceiving” and that Williams is guilty on all eight counts.


“Looks can be deceiving, but evidence is not,” Gordon said.

“Riley Williams may not look like a threat to democracy,” Gordon told jurors, noting that she was a young, small woman who has worn heeled boots and stockings to court. But on Jan. 6, Gordon said, “that is exactly what she was.”

Gordon showed jurors images and videos of Williams throughout her time at the Capitol, including footage that she filmed inside of Pelosi’s conference room as rioters unhooked a laptop. Footage shows Williams encouraging other rioters to take the laptop and use gloves; the government does not allege that she actually left with the laptop but that she aided and abetted its theft. They also say Williams bragged about stealing a hard drive and gavel.

The laptop that was stolen was used by Pelosi for “all her Zoom meetings,” Gordon told jurors.

Prosecutors also showed body-worn camera footage of Williams pushing into the police line, and said she was one of the last to leave the building. She then deleted her Snapchat, got a new phone, and used a “commercial grade” product to erase her computer, the government alleged.

Defense attorney Lori J. Ulrich, a federal public defender, told jurors that Williams “wanted to be somebody,” and described how she traveled to Washington with her father, from whom she separated before entering the Capitol. She described Williams as a then-22-year-old wannabe, told them the basic facts are not really in dispute, and said she would not insult jurors’ intelligence by claiming that what Williams did wasn’t captured on video.

She played video that Williams posted featuring a caption that read “WE’RE STORMING THE WHITE HOUSE,” which she said illustrated that Williams didn’t come to Washington with a game plan. 

“She wasn’t out to hurt Nancy Pelosi; she wasn’t out to hurt anyone,” Ulrich said, adding that the defendant’s “boasting and bragging got her into big trouble.” Ulrich said that Williams never actually took the laptop and that there wasn’t evidence that she stole a hard drive or gavel, either.

Nearly 900 defendants have been arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and more than 350 defendants have been found guilty. Hundreds more Jan. 6 participants have been identified but not yet arrested, and the Justice Department is pressing for additional resources for the unprecedented investigation.

The Williams trial is unfolding in the same federal courthouse in Washington where several members of the Oath Keepers, including Stewart Rhodes, are facing trial on charges of seditious conspiracy.

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