PALM HARBOR, FL — A Palm Harbor, Florida, rabbi is among the many newest Floridians accused of storming to the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6.
In a federal criminal complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court docket in Washington, D.C., Michael Stepakoff, 55, is accused of getting into the Capitol with a mob that stormed the constructing to forestall the congressional certification of the electoral school vote.
Stepakoff leads Temple New Jerusalem, a Messianic synagogue in Palm Harbor. He’s additionally a former lawyer.
He’s amongst about 17 Floridians accused of crimes associated to the storming of the Capitol. The Division of Justice stated a complete of 164 folks from 39 states have been recognized as participating within the siege. Authorities estimate that 800 folks illegally entered the Capitol, many climbing partitions to realize entry, then smashing home windows and damaging places of work.
“Non permanent and everlasting barricades had been in place across the exterior of the U.S. Capitol constructing, and U.S. Capitol Police had been current and making an attempt to maintain the gang away from the Capitol constructing and the proceedings underway inside,” stated an FBI investigator within the criticism.
“Shortly round 2 p.m., people within the crowd compelled entry into the U.S. Capitol, together with by breaking home windows and by assaulting members of the U.S. Capitol Police, as others within the crowd inspired and assisted these acts,” stated the investigator. “At roughly 2:20 p.m. members of the US Home of Representatives and United States Senate, together with the President of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence, had been instructed to—and did—evacuate the chambers.”
Connected to the criticism are two closed-circuit video photos displaying a person now recognized as Stepakoff. One exhibits Stepakoff “getting into by a door underneath an “Exit” signal with a big mob and one other exhibits him standing within the Capitol beneath a chandelier, taking photographs with a cellular phone.”
An unnamed witness recognized Stepakoff as an acquaintance of 20 years.
The doc additionally features a Jan. 6 Fb put up displaying Stepakoff with Trump supporters exterior the Capitol together with a selfie. The caption reads, “Epic and historic second.”
United States District Court docket
One other Fb put up by Stepakoff’s spouse reads, “Replace on Michael, yall. Please proceed to wish for his safety and to be secure. He texted me privately and stated he’s okay however it’s very harmful the place he is- He was contained in the Capitol Constructing …”
United States District Court docket
These Fb posts have since been eliminated.
Stepakoff was arrested Friday morning at his house in Palm Harbor and appeared within the federal court docket in Tampa later Friday.
U.S. Justice of the Peace Decide Anthony Porcelli launched Stepakoff with out bond with the situations that he stay in Florida and solely journey to Washington, D.C., for court docket. The choose additionally required that he give up his passport and any weapons he owns.
Assistant U.S. Legal professional Daniel George famous that “It is a misdemeanor case, however it’s severe. This defendant is a former lawyer who took an oath to uphold the legislation.”
Stepakoff is being represented by Rick Terrana who stated Stepakoff did nothing felony.
“He was there amongst peaceable protesters,” Terrana stated. He stated Stepakoff is a household man and staunch Republican, who went to Washington, D.C., for a enterprise journey associated to his work as a religious chief and attended Trump’s speech whereas there.
“There definitely was no pre-planning or group or conspiracy with him,” Terrana stated. “He obtained caught up within the crowd. It is but to be seen what if something he did incorrect.”
Nevertheless, Stepakoff’s Twitter feedback tells a unique story.
“I’m proud to be an American,” he wrote, “and I made the journey up from Florida to assist the hassle to avoid wasting America. D.C., swarming with MAGA folks. We’re not gonna take it! Thanks President Trump!”
In accordance with the felony criticism, Stepakoff is accused of knowingly getting into or remaining in a restricted constructing or grounds with out lawful authority, knowingly participating in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted constructing or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
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