A West Virginia lawmaker who filmed himself and supporters of President Donald Trump storming into the U.S. Capitol is facing bipartisan calls for his resignation as federal prosecutors step up their pursuit of violent perpetrators. But State Del. Derrick Evans' lawyer told CBS affiliate WVNS-TV that he would not step down and he "committed no criminal act that day."
Evans was among lawmakers from at least seven states who traveled to Washington, D.C., for demonstrations rooted in the baseless conspiracy theory that Democrat Joe Biden stole the presidential election. Wearing a helmet, Evans ultimately joined a screaming mob as it pushed its way into the Capitol building, and livestreamed himself joyfully strolling inside.
"We're in! Keep it moving, baby!" he said in a packed doorway amid Trump followers holding flags and complaining of being pepper sprayed. Once inside, Evans could be seen on video milling around the Capitol Rotunda, where historical paintings depict the republic's founding, and yelled "no vandalizing."
The Republican speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Roger Hanshaw, said Wednesday night that Evans will need to "answer to his constituents and colleagues" for his actions. Democratic leadership called for his prosecution. About 40,000 people signed a petition on change.org asking for Evans' removal.
"He committed no criminal act that day," Bryan said in a statement late Thursday.
The two U.S. Attorneys in West Virginia said in a statement that they are in touch with counterparts in other states and "prepared to enforce the Rule of Law and the laws of these United States."
Evans, a vocal conservative activist with more than 30,000 followers on Facebook, has not publicly posted on social media since issuing a statement Wednesday that he attended the events as an "independent member of the media to film history." He took his Twitter account private late Wednesday and didn't respond to emailed questions.
"At no point was Mr. Evans located in the crowd on the West side of the (Capitol) building, nor anywhere else on the Capitol grounds, where violence and destruction of property was, or had been, occurring," Bryan said.
In his now-deleted video, widely shared online, Evans is clamoring inside a jampacked Capitol building doorway, trying with others to push his way inside. He hollers along with other Trump loyalists and thanks a law enforcement officer for letting them in.
Strolling the grand Capitol Rotunda, where historic paintings depict the republic's founding, Evans implores others to not vandalize artwork and busts, some of which would indeed be vandalized.
"Our house!" Evans yells inside Capitol halls. "I don't know where we're going. I'm following the crowd."
Like several other political first-time winners in November's West Virginia elections, Evans swept aside a Democratic rival to win his seat representing Wayne County. High GOP turnout credited to Mr. Trump elevated down-ballot Republicans in the state and gave the party a statehouse supermajority.
The chairwoman of the state GOP, Melody Potter, declined to answer questions about Evans.
First published on January 8, 2021 / 7:39 AM
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