A Florida man is facing federal charges after a social media picture showed him inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, according to a criminal complaint and Justice Department documents.
Tony Mariotto, of Fort Pierce, was arrested on Jan. 22 and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the Justice Department.
On Jan. 6, the day the Capitol was breached while Congress was in a joint session to certify electoral votes for President Joe Biden, a “concerned citizen” contacted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, alleging that Mariotto had been inside the building around the same time, according to a Jan. 21 criminal complaint (pdf).
A law enforcement agent later contacted the tipster, who said they knew Mariotto personally for over a year and that they followed him on Facebook. The “concerned citizen” then gave an account of seeing photographs of Mariotto posted on his Facebook page that showed Mariotto inside the Capitol building. The tipster said they took screenshots of Mariotto’s post and saved them before Mariotto’s account was deleted, and then provided one of the photos to law enforcement as evidence.
The photo, which appears to be a selfie, depicts Mariotto in the Senate Chamber with the following caption “I’m in [sic] And there are just a few [sic] This is our house,” the complaint states.
An FBI agent later contacted Mariotto, who admitted that he was present inside the Capitol during the riot, telling the agent that “he thought he ‘was being part of history,’ and recounting that ‘he walked through the Capitol chanting ‘USA.'”
Mariotto said he was aware that he was not supposed to be inside the Capitol building, “and stated he would accept full responsibility for his actions,” the complaint states.
Mariotto, in an interview with local outlet WPTV, said he admits to allegations of unlawfully entering the Capitol, but insisted that he did not take part in any violence.
“I don’t ever advocate violence,” Mariotto told the outlet, adding that he was there that day to rally on behalf of a delay in election certification.
“I just thought I was doing something patriotic,” Mariotto told WPTV.
Dozens of people have been arrested for participating in the unrest on Jan. 6, when protesters stormed the Capitol to interrupt the joint session of Congress. The storming has been widely condemned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.