CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Two years to the day after storming the U.S. Capitol, a former West Virginia state lawmaker who served prison time for his role in the riot said Friday that he hopes to return to the scene of his crime as an elected official.
Derrick Evans, who livestreamed himself on Facebook cheering on what he described as a “revolution” at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, announced he will run for a U.S. House seat in 2024.
Others charged for participating in the insurrection have sought public office, but Evans is believed to be the first who served prison time to formally announce a bid.
“I chose today to announce my bid for the House of Representatives because it is an important anniversary in US history,” Evans said in a statement. “While my name will indelibly be part of it, we should also use (it) as a chance to remind ourselves about why democracy is so important and how easily it can be threatened.”
The announcement struck a markedly different tone from the remorse he expressed as he stood before a federal judge at his sentencing in June.
Evans, 37, pleaded guilty to a felony civil disorder charge and served a three-month sentence for participating in the riot. At his sentencing, Evans told a federal judge that he regretted his actions every day and is a “good person who unfortunately was caught up in a moment.”
“I will forever bear the reminder that I made a crucial mistake,” Evans told the judge. “I’ve let down myself, I’ve let down my community and, most importantly, I’ve let down my family.”
After his release in October, Evans began criticizing the federal government’s prosecutions of Capitol riot defendants. His statement Friday described the prosecutions as a “miscarriage” of justice. Despite his contrition at sentencing, Evans said his “resolve never waned.”
The outcome of Evans’ case might have been different had he spoken his mind prior to sentencing, said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who now practices law at a Los Angeles firm.
“You see these about-faces a lot by a criminal defendant,” Rahmani said in an interview. “This is kind of not uncommon where criminal defendants are speaking out of both sides of their mouth.”
Accepting responsibility is something federal judges look for, he said: “It’s part of sentencing guidelines.” If Evans had tried to make excuses for his conduct, he likely would have received a longer sentence, Rahmani said.
“What you have with these Capitol rioters that makes it very unique is, they’re really true believers and they act very irrationally. Most of them have little to no criminal history. A lot of them are ex-military, former law enforcement types. It just boggles the mind for me to see how they’re acting,” he said.
Although Evans has gone from Capitol rioter to federal candidate, “I don’t expect him to be the last,” Rahmani said.
In August, real estate broker Ryan Kelley, who has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanors associated with the Capitol riot, lost in the Republican primary for Michigan governor.
Evans, who cites securing the southern U.S. border and boosting America’s energy independence as top priorities, will seek the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican three-term Rep. Carol Miller.
A Republican from Prichard, Evans was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in November 2020. He was sworn in weeks before the riot that temporarily halted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory and injured more than 100 police officers.
Among them was Michael Fanone, who said Thursday that the fact that MAGA extremists who participated in the attack are now in Congress is an insult to the law enforcement officers who were there defending it.
“I almost died defending the Capitol from people who thought overthrowing the government was a good idea,” Fanone said at a news conference. “The worst part is that our elected leaders allow this to happen and yet this week people who encouraged and even attended the insurrection are now taking their places as leaders in the new House majority.”
Evans was arrested two days after the riot and resigned a month before the start of the legislative session.
Prosecutors said Evans escalated the chaos by egging on the rioters around him. In a since-deleted cellphone video that was widely shared online, he narrated the riot for his 30,000 Facebook followers, cheered on the crowd and fist-bumped rioters as he and the rest of the mob swarmed the Capitol.
“I can’t even explain what is happening right now, how amazing this is to see in person. I am in awe. The revolution has started!” he said, according to court documents.
At his sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Fifield noted that Evans at one point speculated that former President Donald Trump would “pardon anybody who got arrested” for entering the Capitol.
“He knew what was happening around him was not lawful,” she said.