The Department of Justice on Monday declined to prosecute the “Colbert 9 insurrectionists” after they were arrested for unlawfully roaming around a congressional office building after hours, last month. Federal prosecutors said they cleared the alleged trespassers of wrongdoing because they were “invited by Congressional staffers to enter the building.”
On June 16, nine staffers associated with CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” were arrested after ignoring instructions to stay with a staff escort while inside the building. The staffers were caught loudly recording comedy skits inside a House Office Building after hours without permission, Fox News reported. People who don’t work on Capitol Hill are not allowed inside the official buildings after hours unless they have an escort, Fox noted.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement:
After a comprehensive review of all of the evidence and the relevant legal authority, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has determined that it cannot move forward with misdemeanor charges of unlawful entry against the nine individuals who were arrested on June 16, 2022 at the Longworth Office Building.
The individuals, who entered the building on two separate occasions, were invited by Congressional staffers to enter the building in each instance and were never asked to leave by the staffers who invited them, though, members of the group had been told at various points by the U.S. Capitol Police that they were supposed to have an escort.
The Office would be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these invited guests were guilty of the crime of unlawful entry because their escort chose to leave them unattended. We do not believe it is probable that the Office would be able to obtain and sustain convictions on these charges. The defendants no longer will be required to appear for a scheduled hearing in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on July 20, 2022.
According to Fox, the Colbert staffers had tried to get permission to cover the 1/6 committee hearings but were denied “because they are considered to be entertainment and not news.”
“Members of the group had been told several times before they entered the Congressional buildings that they had to remain with a staff escort inside the buildings and they failed to do so,” the United States Capitol Police (USCP) said in a press statement.
The USCP added that they “respect the decision that office has made” but according to Fox, the Capitol Police are unhappy with the decision to drop the charges, “especially since the Colbert 9 were told on multiple occasions they weren’t supposed to be there.”
Sources close to the Capitol Police told Fox the decision “undercuts law enforcement” in the wake of the January 6 riot.
According to the police, the staffers were charged with unlawful entry after being found acting “disruptive, loud” and “theatrical” near the office of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in the Longworth House Office Building as they recorded comedy skits for the Late Show around 8:30 p.m. on June 16.
Earlier in the day, the group had conducted interviews with members of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla, as well as Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass.
They were eventually escorted out of the Cannon House Office Building, where the Jan. 6 committee was conducting its hearing, because they didn’t have proper press credentials. Sources tell Fox News that an aide to Auchincloss let them back into the House office buildings around 4:00 p.m. and they were left unattended for several hours.
Colbert himself downplayed the arrests on his show the following Monday as a “very professional” interaction between his staff and “cautious” Capitol Police officers and jokingly called the incident “first-degree puppetry.”
Republican lawmakers also requested information that Monday on how Colbert’s crew were able to gain access inside the building despite not having press credentials. Despite the arrests, a CBS spokesperson at the time told Fox News that “interviews at the Capitol were authorized and pre-arranged through Congressional aides of the members interviewed.”
Puppeteer Robert Smigel, writer Josh Comers, associate producer Allison Martinez and senior producer Jake Plunkett were among those arrested.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Monday night that the Congressional staffer who let the Colbert crew in the Longworth office building was Tim Hysom, the Chief of Staff to Dem Rep Auchincloss (D-Mass.). Hysom was caught defacing posters belonging to the Georgia congresswoman earlier this year.
Greene tweeted out images of an arrest warrant for Hysom, along with images of him tampering with the posters.
Since the Stephen Colbert crew was let in my office building, Longworth & left unescorted by Congressional staffers who invited them in, why aren’t the staffers being held accountable?
It was Tim Hysom, COS to Dem Rep Auchincloss.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) July 19, 2022
According to the warrant, starting in January, Hysom allegedly placed Christian-themed stickers on a poster immediately outside Greene’s office in the Longworth House Office Building on Independence Avenue in D.C. several times.
Hysom allegedly stickered the posters numerous times in February and March, before a surveillance camera was installed and he was caught on film allegedly placing the stickers on the poster.
According to Greene, the Capitol Police referred the case to the Department of Justice, but they declined to charge Hysom with any offenses.
“Since the Stephen Colbert crew was let in my office building, Longworth & left unescorted by Congressional staffers who invited them in, why aren’t the staffers being held accountable?” Green tweeted. “It was Tim Hysom, COS to Dem Rep Auchincloss. Why won’t the DOJ prosecute him?”