Pete Harding’s court appearance pushed to next month; FBI using defendant’s social media as evidence
Pete Harding, the Cheektowaga man charged in last month’s U.S. Capitol riot, made a brief virtual appearance in federal court on Tuesday. Meanwhile, recently disclosed court documents accuse Harding of discussing his riot participation on social media.
Harding’s public defender, Michelle Peterson, asked for a 30-day delay in proceedings so Harding’s Western New York attorney can file the necessary paperwork to represent him going forward. The attorney was not identified.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather agreed to the request and set a status hearing for March 4.
Harding, 47, is one of more than 160 people charged in connection to last month’s deadly riot, in which now-former President Donald Trump’s supporters attempted to stop Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Harding, in a photo released by the FBI, is seen inside the Capitol Building during the riot, while social media videos show Harding attempting to light media equipment on fire outside the building.
The FBI is also using Harding’s own social media as evidence, according to documents recently posted on the U.S. Department of Justice website.
In a statement of facts, the FBI cites Harding’s live streams both during and after the storming of the Capitol building. In an hour-long livestream posted the day after the riot, Harding, according to the FBI, says, “We learned how strong our numbers are. If we can take the Capitol building, there is nothing we can’t accomplish — county government, city government, town government, state government.”
Harding also says in the video that “none of this” was “orchestrated,” but ends the video by thanking the “Marching Patriots for organizing it,” according to the FBI. The Marching Patriots is one of the several right-wing groups that Harding is a part of. He was wearing a Marching Patriots maroon hoodie during the riot.
The FBI’s statement of facts also cites a Jan. 8 Buffalo News article, in which Harding admitted to the paper that he entered the Capitol building for approximately 40 minutes and that he attempted to light media equipment on fire.
Harding was charged Jan. 13 with knowingly entering any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
During Harding’s last court appearance two weeks ago, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey ordered Harding be subjected to electronic monitoring and an overnight curfew. Harding also can’t come to Washington, D.C. unless as part of his court appearances, and he can’t leave New York state without permission.
The restrictions came after the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. accused Harding of refusing to tell the FBI where he was prior to his arrest at an associate’s residence in Elma Jan. 13.
Harding denied the allegations, speaking out of turn to tell Harvey, “I contacted the FBI immediately.”
Harvey, in deciding to levy the restrictions, said he was less concerned about Harding’s contact with the FBI and more concerned about the items found in Harding’s possession at the time of his arrest: more than $700 in cash, debit and gift cards, clothing and five cell phones.
Harding’s March 4 court appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m.