Michigan GOP governor hopeful pleads not guilty to charges related to Jan. 6 riot

By Sara Murray and Holmes Lybrand, CNN

Ryan Kelley, Republican gubernatorial candidate of Michigan pleaded not guilty Thursday to misdemeanor charges for his alleged actions during the U.S. Capitol riot after claiming he only engaged in “First Amendment activity” that day.

According to federal investigators, Kelley climbed through the scaffolding for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration stage during the attack and waved the rioters forward. In the weeks following the riot, the FBI received several pieces of information identifying Kelley from photos taken that day.

His court appearance came the day after he continued to spread lies about the 2020 election and defended his insurgency appearance during a debate on Wednesday night.

During a Republican candidates’ debate hosted by WOOD TV8 in Michigan, Kelley expressed no regrets about his Jan. 6 visit to Washington.

“January 6, 2021, back when gas was below $2 a gallon — those were good times,” Kelley said when the moderator asked about the uprising.

“I was in Washington, DC on January 6,” Kelley continued. “Yeah, the FBI raided my house in front of my wife, in front of my kids, put on this big theatrical show for misdemeanor charges. And that’s the same day they launched their Jan. 6 witch hunt committee that they’re currently organizing in Congress. But you know, it was first amendment activity by a majority of these people – myself included – we were there to protest the government because we don’t like the 2020 election results, the process of how which it happened. And we have that First Amendment right. And that’s what 99% of people were there for that day. And yes, I support President Trump.

Kelley also mulled over a variety of campaign conspiracies during the debate and told voters he still believes the election in Michigan — where Biden won more than 154,000 votes — was stolen.

“Yes, the 2020 election in the state of Michigan was fraudulent and it was stolen from President Trump,” Kelley said.

Kelley is one of a handful of Republicans vying to face Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer this fall.

This story has been updated with Kelley’s not guilty plea.

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