WARREN, Ohio (WOIO) - It appears that it was his own social media posts that lead federal authorities to a 38-year-old Warren man who they say was involved in the Capitol riot earlier this month.
On Monday, Stephen Michael Ayres was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice/ Congress, unlawful entry into restricted buildings or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the complaint.
The affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office shows the central role social media is playing in the case against Ayres and in authorities’ investigations into the insurrection.
The FBI received thousands tips the week after the insurrection, the affidavit says. Multiple said Ayres had been involved and had posted about it on Facebook.
Four days after the attack, FBI agents were themselves on Ayres’ Facebook page watching a nearly 8 minute long video he had posted after returning to his hotel room from the Capitol, according to the affidavit.
In the video, Ayres and another man identified in the affidavit as “Male 1″ describe entering the Capitol and being welcomed by police, and repeat a discredited conspiracy theory that the riot was part of a Antifa-lead setup to discredit Trump followers.
There is no evidence to support that assertion, and it has been debunked repeatedly.
The affidavit also contains several surveillance pictures of men investigators say are Ayres and Male 1 inside the Capitol building.
Eventually, a Federal judge issued a warrant for Ayres’ Facebook, which gave investigators access to company data, private posts, and direct messages.
They found additional messages and posts describing Ayres’ attendance at the riot, including a post with a screen shot of an interview he did with a Fox News crew.
“‘Made it on Faux News!! Front and center!! [Name of Male 1] on the left and me on the right!’” he wrote on Facebook, the affidavit says.
Reporter Kelly Kennedy went by Ayer’s home to try and talk with him. A woman answered the door and told her Ayers was not there and yelled goodbye before slamming the door. Neighbors said they were shocked to hear of his involvement in the riots and even more shocked when the FBI showed up in front of Ayer’s home Monday morning.
19 News also wanted to know why the other two people in the video have not been arrested, the department of justice tells me they could not comment on that, because it is still an active investigation.
Ayres’ initial appearance was Monday. He was released after the court set an unsecure bond at $20,000, court records show.
His next hearing is scheduled for February 8 via video conference.