ELECTION 2020

Cedar Rapids man who invaded U.S. Capitol is charged in federal court

A reporter's video shows Leo Kelly at U.S. Capitol riot

Linn County Jail photo for Leo C. Kelly
Linn County Jail photo for Leo C. Kelly
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man who said he “wanted to see what was going on” as he took part this month in the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol now faces federal charges over the incursion.

Leo Christopher Kelly, 35, is charged in U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry with intent to disrupt the orderly conduct of official business and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Kelly was identified by investigators as being part of the pandemonium through video coverage by a news reporter and by two interviews he did with The Gazette and with the LifeSiteNews website, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint Friday.

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In that video interview with LifeSiteNews, which describes itself as opposed to abortion rights, Kelly said he was “one of the first men to breach the Capitol building and go inside with dozens of others.”

The affidavit states Kelly, in that interview, also said he stayed inside the Capitol between 30 minutes and an hour.

He asserted the invaders didn’t encounter law enforcement officials and said he and others were “mostly respectful as you can be when you’re kind of really pushing in on somebody’s space like that,” the affidavit states.

Kelly admitted that he got all the way to the Senate floor and said a prayer with others, according to the affidavit.

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His interview concluded with video Kelly likely shot with his cellphone from the Senate floor “during the insurrection,” the affidavit states.

Kelly, in the LifeSiteNews interview, told an interviewer he shot some video and it shows desks that were opened and in disarray and other people involved in the invasion that day, according to the affidavit.

A video shot by Luke Mogelson of the New Yorker Magazine also showed the scene unfolding on the Senate floor at the time of the incursion.

In the New Yorker video, Kelly can be seen inside the chamber beginning at about the 7:55 mark on the recording.

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Kelly is on the right hand side of the frame, joining others as a protester at the Senate president’s desk calls on those around him to “say a prayer in this sacred place.” Kelly can be seen taking a knee as the prayer leader gives “thanks to our heavenly father for this opportunity to stand up for our God-given unalienable rights.”

That prayer leader, who shouted the words over a bullhorn, also has been charged in the melee. Jacob Anthony Chansley, also known as the QAnon conspiracy “shaman” adorned with horns and a bearskin hat, faces similar charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

The complaint notes that Kelly, also during the video interview, said he felt “conflicted about what happened that day at the Capitol because ‘you violate someone else’s space … Force your way into a building … In some ways that really feels wrong, but that really does belong to us.’”

Kelly also acknowledged it should be an “absolute last resort,” according to the affidavit. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done that … It’s just, you come to the end of your rope and you get swept up in a movement.”

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He also described it as a “bunch of people running and doing this” and he was just reacting to things and taking a chance to be heard.

FBI Special Agent Michael J. McGillicuddy of the Washington field office said he did a Google image search on Jan. 8 and located a profile photo of Kelly at his former employer in Cedar Rapids, according to the affidavit. He identified Kelly from the photo and video interview. The investigator also did a public records search for Kelly and obtained his driver’s license photo to confirm his identity.

On Jan. 11, McGillicuddy saw The Gazette article on Kelly, who had admitted to a reporter that he entered the Capitol with the others, but asserted he wasn’t violent, the affidavit states.

A Cedar Rapids FBI agent was told by a deputy U.S. marshal who is an acquaintance of Kelly’s that Kelly had contacted the marshal’s office while he was driving back to Iowa from Washington, D.C.

“Specifically, Kelly said that he would turn himself in if an arrest warrant was issued for him,” McGillicuddy said in the affidavit.

Before entering the Capitol, Kelly had attended a “stop the steal” rally where President Donald Trump spoke, telling the crowd to never concede and that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

So far, only one other Iowan, QAnon backer Douglas Jensen, has been charged in the riot.

His charges include: knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disrupting the orderly conduct of government business; violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building; and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

James Q. Lynch of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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