Florida rabbi arrested in connection with deadly US Capitol riot

Florida rabbi arrested in connection with deadly US Capitol riot
Donald Trump supporters outside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, TapTheForwardAssist
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A rabbi in Florida is now the latest person of interest in connection with the deadly U.S. Capitol riots that erupted on Jan. 6 amid the Electoral College certification.

According to WFLA-TV, the U.S. Department of Justice has arrested Michael Stepakoff, of Tampa Bay, Fla., on a string of charges for his role in the U.S. Capitol siege. A criminal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C., details the incriminating evidence that led to Stepakoff's arrest.

Federal authorities have revealed that there is "surveillance video which shows him standing inside the Capitol building during the raid and a Facebook post the FBI says was made by his wife, which states he was inside the building and asks the public for prayers for his safety," according to FOX-13.

On Friday, Jan. 29, Stepakoff, who is the rabbi at the Palm Harbor-based messianic synagogue Temple New Jerusalem, appeared in court on a number of charges including "knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and knowingly engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in any restricted building or grounds."

Despite the charges brought against him and the surveillance footage of him inside of the Capitol, his attorney Rick Terrana argues that the evidence does not make his client guilty of a crime.

"I'm not sure to what extent his presence there makes him guilty of any crime," said Stepakoff's attorney, Rick Terrana. "He just followed the crowd over to the Capitol just intending to be nothing more than a spectator and ended up going into the Capitol after it was opened up, an hour or so after this incident that we all saw on TV."

As of Saturday, Jan. 30, more than 170 people have been arrested for participating in the insurrection on the U.S. Capitol. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) investigation will be ongoing.

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