In a significant development, former Republican candidate for Michigan governor, Ryan Kelley, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for his involvement in the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. The guilty plea comes more than a year after Kelley’s arrest, causing upheaval in the already contentious Republican gubernatorial primary in Michigan.
Kelley, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, had finished fourth in the primary election, which ultimately saw Tudor Dixon emerge as the Republican nominee. However, the events surrounding the Capitol riot cast a shadow over Kelley’s campaign.
The former candidate had previously denounced the prosecution as a “witch hunt,” and his campaign even referred to him as a “political prisoner” on social media after his arrest. Nonetheless, Kelley’s attorney, Gary Springstead, shared that his client is eager to move past the legal proceedings and focus on his family and successful career as a commercial real estate agent.
Kelley pleaded guilty to illegally entering a restricted area, and his sentencing is scheduled for October 17. The plea agreement was reached with federal prosecutors, leading to the cancellation of his trial, which had been set to begin on July 31.
During the Capitol riot, Kelley had traveled to Washington to protest the certification of the 2020 election results in favor of President Joe Biden. According to court documents, he participated in the march from the “Stop the Steal” rally to the Capitol building, where he climbed an “architectural feature” and gestured for others to move toward the building’s stairs.
Despite his participation in the riot, Kelley maintained that it was a First Amendment activity by the majority of the people present, including himself. He had asserted that the crowd was protesting the election’s outcome and the process surrounding it.
Kelley’s involvement in political activism dates back to before the Capitol riot. He was seen wearing similar clothing at an American Patriot Council rally in Lansing, Michigan, in May 2020, where he spoke against extending Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, Kelley had addressed a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan state Capitol in November 2020, just after the presidential election. At that rally, he urged others to “stand and fight” to prevent Democrats from “stealing the election.”
With his guilty plea, Kelley faces the consequences of his actions during the Capitol riot and becomes a prominent figure among those held accountable for their roles in the January 6 events. The case serves as a reminder of the enduring impact of that turbulent day on the American political landscape.