At least three men who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol have histories of arrests for domestic violence or sexual abuse, expanding the tally of insurrectionists with disturbing records of arrests or charges of violence against women and children. In February, a HuffPost investigation found nine other Jan. 6 participants who had similar histories, ranging from accusations of intimate partner violence to prison time served for sexual assault.
One of the newly listed men, who was charged with attacking a police officer Jan. 6, has been responsible for “many hospital visits for many victims,” according to a charging memo uncovered by HuffPost. Another man being charged in connection with the Capitol riot has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence, but never prosecuted, and is pending trial on felony child abuse charges, HuffPost found.
And a third, who allegedly yelled at Capitol police that they were “protecting pedophiles,” was convicted of statutory rape in 2010, CNN reported last week.
The link between extremism and violent misogyny has become very evident in recent years as more mass shooters have been found to have a history of violent behavior toward women. Though most abusive men do not go on to perpetrate larger acts of violence, the ties between violence against women and extremism are too clear to ignore, experts said.
“We still, in this day and age, treat violence against women as a personal or family issue, as opposed to a troubling indicator of someone who could become more violent,” Bridget Todd, communications director at the feminist organization UltraViolet, told HuffPost in February.
The details in the three newly found cases are shocking. Ryan Samsel, 38, is charged with assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer and giving her a concussion while storming the barricades. According to prosecutors, Samsel “has an extensive criminal history of assaultive and violent behavior” toward women and has been convicted of assaulting women at least three times.
“The facts underlying these other convictions are extremely disturbing,” prosecutors wrote of Samsel in the Pennsylvania man’s detention memo. “They show a pattern of Samsel choking and beating women to the point of loss of consciousness, of many hospital visits for many victims, of chipped and missing teeth, and of Samsel even breaking into one victim’s home multiple times to assault her.”
Samsel’s criminal history includes a 2006 assault in which he attempted to run a woman he knew off the road with his car, punched her windshield and told her he would kill her if he didn’t get back the $60 she owed him, prosecutors stated. In 2009, Samsel was convicted of simple assault and reckless endangerment after he “held a victim against her will for five hours, choking her to the point of unconsciousness, pushing her, beating her, and chipping her teeth,” the detention memo says.
Samsel was again convicted of simple assault, among other charges, in 2011 for choking and beating his pregnant girlfriend. In 2015, he was convicted of simple assault for a third time, involving a different female victim who told police that Samsel had choked her to the point of losing consciousness.
Another woman came forward in 2019 and alleged that Samsel broke into her home, assaulted her and choked her until she lost consciousness multiple times. “The victim also alleged that Samsel raped her multiple times, and that she had often been scared he would kill her,” the detention memo says. The woman told police she got a restraining order against Samsel, but he violated it multiple times.
When Samsel traveled to Washington to take part in the Jan. 6 riot, there was an open warrant for his arrest on assault charges, and he was also on parole for a separate incident. Samsel’s attorneys did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Jorge Riley, a 43-year-old who identifies as Native American who stormed the Capitol wearing feathers and black face paint, has “a history of arrests for domestic violence against previous relationships,” prosecutors stated in charging documents. None of Riley’s domestic abuse arrests resulted in prosecution.
“I can’t really put into words the fear he instills in you,” Megan Teefy, Riley’s ex-wife, told HuffPost. Teefy told HuffPost that Riley was physically and emotionally abusive to her during their four-year relationship.
Riley is awaiting trial in California on felony child abuse charges in which he is “alleged to have choked and beaten his child in public causing a number of visible marks and resulting in his son briefly losing consciousness,” according to prosecutors. Riley was on release pending trial for those child abuse charges when he traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6 action.
Riley is facing federal charges involving the storming of the Capitol, including obstructing an official proceeding and disorderly and disruptive conduct on restricted grounds. Riley’s attorneys did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In the third case, Sean McHugh, 34, of Auburn, California, who is facing eight felony counts for his involvement in the Capitol insurrection, including assaulting police officers and obstructing congressional proceedings, was also convicted in 2010 of statutory rape and sentenced to 240 days in jail and four years of probation, CNN reported last week.
According to charging documents, McHugh allegedly shouted at Capitol police officers while attempting to storm the building: “You guys like protecting pedophiles?”; “You’re protecting communists!”; “I’d be shaking in your little shit boots too”; “There is a second amendment behind us, what are you going to do then?”; “You ain’t holding the line!”
CNN reported that the prosecutor in McHugh’s statutory rape case said the victim was 14 years old and McHugh was 23 when the offense occurred.
McHugh declined to comment to HuffPost through his attorney.
“The same far-right extremists who weaponize conspiracy theories and hate to radicalize followers online are trafficking in misogyny in their plight to silence and shun women they perceive to be a threat to their power.”
The details in many of the cases HuffPost found in its original investigation are similarly disturbing. Capitol rioter Edward Hemenway was released from prison in 2013 after serving five years on rape, sexual battery and criminal confinement charges. According to court records, Hemenway lured his estranged wife to a hotel in 2004 where he handcuffed her, duct-taped her mouth shut and raped her. Another insurrectionist, Guy Reffitt from Wylie, Texas, put his wife in a chokehold in 2018 until she almost lost consciousness, according to a police report. When the cop asked how long he had choked his wife, Reffitt responded that “he had trouble remembering but he said not long because he loves her,” according to the report. Reffitt’s wife, Nicole Reffitt, confirmed to HuffPost in February that the physical altercation did happen, although she couldn’t recall specific details.
Violence against women, like domestic abuse or sexual assault, often begets more violence.
“The connection between far-right extremists and misogyny is extremely predictable,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told HuffPost in February. She is the co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “The same far-right extremists who weaponize conspiracy theories and hate to radicalize followers online are trafficking in misogyny in their plight to silence and shun women they perceive to be a threat to their power.”
HuffPost has also discovered that at least one other pro-Trump rallygoer who was near the Capitol grounds during the riot has been arrested over incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Benjamin Martin, of Fresno, California, was present at the pro-Trump rally on Jan. 6. Although he is not facing any federal charges, Martin told GV Wire, a Northern California news site, that he was inside the Capitol but only because he was forced in by a mob while trying to de-escalate the situation between rioters and Capitol Police. Martin told GV Wire he was about 15 feet into the building before walking out, adding that antifa was to blame for the insurrection and vandalism at the Capitol. (There has been no evidence of anti-fascist activists, known as antifa, were involved in the Jan. 6 riot.)
Martin was accused of domestic violence by his former girlfriend in 2017, KFSN-TV in Fresno reported. The ex-girlfriend told police that Martin strangled her after he found her looking through his phone and accused him of contacting escorts, according to a police report. That same year, there was an arrest warrant for Martin after he allegedly threatened his estranged wife and damaged her car. The charges from the incident with his estranged wife were dropped when he entered into a plea deal for the domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend.
Last year, Martin’s sister requested a restraining order after she said he repeatedly threatened her. “Benjamin harassed and threatened to ‘take me out,’” the sister said in a police report. “I am not sure what he means by this and he is very angry about [losing] his real estate license. He wants to take it out on someone. I believe he is angry enough to do something to me and my family.” The case was later dismissed.
Martin is not facing any federal charges for his involvement in the rally. He did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Ryan Reilly contributed reporting.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.