Many online were outraged on Thursday when The Associated Press reported that Riley Williams, the woman accused by federal authorities of taking part in the attack on Congress and stealing a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, was released from jail in Pennsylvania.
In a lengthy statement released last week, the FBI said they had spoken to a "former romantic partner" of the 22-year-old who “stated that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.… the transfer… to Russia fell through for unknown reasons.”
FBI on Pelosi laptop stolen from #Capitol:
Witness “stated that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.… the transfer…to Russia fell through for unknown reasons.” pic.twitter.com/nlyuUpowm0
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 18, 2021
Williams was caught on camera participating in the violent attack on the Capitol Building that resulted in six deaths and the desecration of the building.
As more information has come out about the attack, federal authorities have made it clear that many among the hundreds of rioters intended to kidnap and kill members of Congress. Senators and House members were evacuated to secure rooms just minutes before the attackers made their way to the floors of Congress with zip-tie handcuffs, heavy arms and pipe bombs.
That’s Riley June Williams in green, directing terrorists during the insurrection. Did Lauren Boebert give Riley a tour of the Capitol, incl. directions to Nancy Pelosi’s office? FBI suspects Williams stole Pelosi’s laptop, intending to sell it to Russia.pic.twitter.com/HYzjuDLfb3
— Stephanie Kennedy (@WordswithSteph) January 18, 2021
In the FBI notice about Williams, they noted that she was on the run. She was eventually captured on Monday, according to NPR.
But, on Thursday, despite being charged with theft, trespassing, disorderly conduct and other charges, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson released Williams into the custody of her mother, according to The Associated Press.
Carlson provided multiple excuses for releasing Williams, including her age and the fact that she had no prior criminal record.
“The gravity of these offenses is great. It cannot be overstated,” he said, despite allowing her to walk free.
Carlson put travel restrictions on Williams and said she had to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Despite video of Williams leading rioters up the stairs in the Capitol Building and directing them to Pelosi's office to do damage, her lawyer said the charges against her were overstated and that the witness who spoke to the FBI was an ex-boyfriend who abused her.
“It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president’s bait and went inside the Capitol,” her lawyer said in court.
The FBI has not said where the laptop is now but Pelosi's staff has said it was used for presentations. The FBI affidavit said they had video of Williams in Pelosi's office with people taking the laptop, according to The Associated Press.
They also had posts Williams made on social media that said, "STOLE S — T FROM NANCY POLESI. I TOOK HER GRAVEL HAMMER TBING” one post said.
“I DON'T CARE I TOOK NANCY POLESIS HARD DRIVES. I DON’T CARE KILL ME," she said in another post, according to The Washington Post.
Federal authorities asked the judge not to release her but Carlson ignored their request.
Williams' release from jail enraged many, who share dozens of examples of Black people who spent years in pre-trial detention for minor charges.
Many cited the case of Kalief Browder, who was held on Rikers Island for three years without trial on erroneous charges that he stole a backpack. Two of those years were spent in solitary confinement, and Browder committed suicide two years after his release.
Kalief Browder allegedly stole a backpack at 16, spent 3 yrs at Riker's Island without trial.
Riley Williams stole a laptop from Speaker Pelosi's office and tried selling it the Russians. She was released to her mother
— Derenic Byrd (@DerenicByrd) January 22, 2021
Many people began sharing cases of those who spent months and years in prison on far less severe charges.
Riley June Williams is accused of stealing Pelosi's laptop in the US Capitol attack to sell to Russia and was released from custody.
As a public defender, I represented a man held in on bail for stealing cough syrup and toothpaste from Duane Reade.
Two. Systems. Of. Justice.
— Eliza Orlins (@elizaorlins) January 22, 2021
Taylor Enterline -a Black woman arrested during a protest was held on a $1,000,000 bail.
Riley June Williams – a white women broke into the capital, stole Pelosi’s laptop and tried to sell it to Russia got a lecture and went home under her mom Custody pic.twitter.com/WUekVXNT2N
— Xilla (@BlogXilla) January 22, 2021
Let this sink in…
Riley June Williams, who face charges for stealing laptop from @SpeakerPelosi during Capitol siege & attempted to sell it to Russia ???????? will be released from jail.
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) January 22, 2021
It is absolutely INSANE that Riley June Williams directed rioters in the US Capitol attack, stole a laptop to sell to Russians, and was RELEASED FROM CUSTODY.
Sandra Bland died in police custody for a turn signal.
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) January 22, 2021
Riley Williams—who stormed the Capitol and stole hard drives from @SpeakerPelosi to sell to Russian intelligence—was sent home to her Mom. No bond on a felony.
I won a $9.5b pollution case against Chevron validated by two Supreme Courts. $800k bond on a misdemeanor.
— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) January 22, 2021
Sandra Bland – pulled over for traffic violation, taken to jail with bail set at 5k, and found dead in her jail cell 3 days later.
Riley Williams – broke into Capitol, stole Pelosi’s laptop & tried to sell it to the Russians. She was released from jail yesterday.
— Robert Greenwald (@robertgreenwald) January 22, 2021
PennLive reported that Williams will have to wear an ankle monitor but she will be allowed to go to work and leave home for other reasons approved by the court.