State Watch

FBI arrests former school therapist who reached VP’s chair in Capitol riot

The FBI on Thursday arrested a former occupational therapist for Cleveland schools and charged her in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol after they identified her as the woman in a viral photo standing next to the vice president’s chair in the Senate.

According to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 49-year-old Christine Priola has been charged with unlawfully entering and remaining on restricted grounds, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and unlawful parading while at the Capitol.

The filing says the Cleveland Division of the FBI received an anonymous tip on Friday that Priola was the woman pictured in the photograph, taken by a Getty Images photographer, holding a sign that read, “The Children Cry Out for Justice,” while standing next to the chair reserved for Vice President Pence in the Senate chamber.

Users on Twitter also identified Priola, adding that she was employed with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). That was later verified by law enforcement with a letter from Priola resigning from her position the day after the riot.

Police last week executed a search warrant on Priola’s home, where authorities uncovered items seen in the viral photograph, and were also able to use data from Priola’s cellphone to confirm her location at the Capitol at the time of the riot. 

Priola remains in the custody of U.S. Marshals and is scheduled to appear at a federal court hearing in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon.

According to Priola’s resignation letter obtained by local NBC affiliate WKYC last week, she cited her refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine before in-person learning resumes as one of her reasons for resigning. She also referred to her desire to change career paths to focus on “the global evil of human trafficking and pedophilia, including in our government and children’s services agencies.”

Priola further wrote that she does not support paying union dues that she claims are used to “fund people and groups that support the killing of unborn children.”

School district spokesperson Roseann Canfora told the local outlet last week that, “While CMSD deeply believes in the right of any individual to peacefully protest, as many did on the Capitol plaza on Wednesday afternoon, the District deeply condemns the actions of those involved in the riots inside the Capitol and on the Capitol grounds.” 

Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski released a separate statement condemning the Capitol attack, calling it an “insurrection.”

“It is the exact opposite of what we teach our students,” Obrenski added. “Anyone who participated must bear the very serious consequences of their actions.”

The Justice Department has so far brought more than 70 criminal cases in connection with last week’s pro-Trump riot that occurred as a joint session of Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Five people died amid the chaos, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman shot by a plainclothes officer. Three others died of “medical emergencies” near the Capitol grounds.

Tags Capitol breach Capitol riot Capitol riot charges Cleveland Congress Joe Biden Justice Department NBC Ohio Senate

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