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Capitol Police Board says letter thanking indicted former officer was an error

<i>Drew Angerer/Getty Images</i><br/>Six weeks after a grand jury indicted former US Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley on obstruction of justice charges
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Six weeks after a grand jury indicted former US Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley on obstruction of justice charges

By Whitney Wild and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Six weeks after a grand jury indicted former US Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley on obstruction of justice charges, the Capitol Police Board thanked him for his 26-year service in a glowing farewell letter it now says was sent in error.

“Please accept our congratulations on your retirement from the United States Capitol Police,” the Senate and House sergeants-at-arms, the architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger wrote December 2, 2021.

“Your attention to duty, professionalism, and dedication are above reproach, and each serve as a tribute to your character. Your hard work will leave a lasting impression on the department for many years to come.”

But on Thursday, after Riley pointed to the letter in a court filing, the US Capitol Police said it had been sent “in error.” The department added it had “particular language, and pre-printed signatures,” and that the agency was looking to make sure only officers who left the force in good standing would get them, according to a statement provided to CNN.

Riley was indicted in October for allegedly telling another man — Jacob Hiles — to take down a Facebook post in which Hiles claimed to have gone inside the US Capitol during the riot on January 6, 2021, then deleting the Facebook communications with Hiles.

The case became one of the clearest messages from the Justice Department in recent months that it would look into possible crimes even outside of those who had gone into the Capitol. Riley is the only police officer on duty on Capitol Hill on January 6 charged with attempting to help a rioter.

Fighting his charge this week, Riley’s attorneys argued federal prosecutors haven’t turned over information relevant to his defense and that Riley had been targeted because of his status as a Capitol Police officer. His legal team noted his case had been opened because the DC US Attorney’s Office — the prosecutors — had requested that the FBI — the investigators — look into it.

“Officer Riley, who had a long and distinguished career with the United States Capitol Police, engaged in acts of heroism on January 6, 2021 in responding to the attack on the U.S. Capitol,” the filing said.

“As the Federal Bureau of Investigation (‘FBI’) revealed to Officer Riley — while surreptitiously recording him — Officer Riley was the subject of an investigation solely because of his status as a United States Capitol Police Officer and had he been a ‘gardener,’ he would not have been investigated,” the filing said.

Riley’s attorneys also pointed out that his Facebook friend Hiles had posted on Facebook that January 6 was a “special anniversary” for “patriots” and the media was the true problem, after telling a judge at his sentencing that he was remorseful.

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