Former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate to Plead Guilty in Jan. 6 Insurrection Case

Ryan Kelley speaks at an American Patriot Rally organized by the Michigan United for Liberty in 2020. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

By Michigan Advance

June 23, 2023

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—A plea agreement hearing is set July 27 for former GOP gubernatorial candidate and far-right activist Ryan Kelley, who is reportedly expected to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge.

Kelley, who finished fourth in the five-way GOP primary last year, was arrested in June 2022 and charged with four misdemeanor counts related to his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection of pro-former President Trump supporters at the US Capitol. Court records show that a July 31 trial date has been canceled, and a July 27 pretrial conference has been converted into a plea agreement hearing.

Kelley’s attorney reportedly told the Detroit News that his client will plead guilty to a charge of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds in exchange for the other three charges being dropped.

One of the three counts being dropped as part of the plea deal was knowingly engaging in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted building or grounds. The other two counts being dismissed are disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and willfully injuring or committing any depredation against any property of the United States.

While Kelley, a 41-year-old real estate broker from Allendale, vigorously maintained he never entered the building, authorities alleged in his indictment that he climbed through scaffolding for then-President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration stage and motioned for rioters to advance.

Kelley would serve no more than six months in prison under the government’s estimated sentencing guidelines. He is one of at least 23 people from Michigan charged for participating in the Capitol riot, and among 968 people nationwide.

Kelley, who was interviewed by investigators for the US House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, refused to confirm whether he was in any of the videos at the Capitol provided by the investigators.

Kelley and Jason Howland, who was with Kelley in Washington, DC, on the day of the insurrection, are the co-founders of the far-right group the American Patriot Council. They hosted a number of rallies in Grand Rapids and Lansing protesting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 orders and the 2020 election that Trump lost to Biden.

While Kelley has said he was in DC that day lawfully protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, House investigators questioned him about social media posts preceding Jan. 6 that included one in which he wrote: “more Militia needed nationwide ready to step up & fight for America.”

When asked why he specifically called on militia members, Kelley said he had “no specific answer on that” and it was “not a call for violence.”

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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