A lawyer for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, woman accused of stealing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during the Capitol riot told a judge Thursday her client was not fleeing from authorities when she left her home, changed her phone number and shut down her social media accounts after being identified by the FBI.
Instead, Riley Williams was seeking to escape what her attorney Lori J. Ulrich described as an abusive relationship with the ex-boyfriend who had focused investigators attention in her direction.
“His accusations are overstated,” Ulrich told U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson during a bail hearing Thursday in Harrisburg.
She added that the man — whom Ulrich and prosecutors have not identified — had previously stalked and harassed Williams. She said Williams had filed a restraining order against him and that police at the time had advised her to get a new phone number.
“She’s been vilified by the government and the public in these matters,” Ulrich said.
The lawyer’s explanation came as Carlson ordered Williams, 22, released on house arrest by agreement between the defense and prosecutors, four days after authorities first accused her of stealing the computer from Pelosi’s office based on information from that ex.
According to court filings, he told agents Williams had boasted of her plan to sell the laptop to the Russian security service through a friend in that country.
Williams surrendered to authorities late Monday, after a 48-hour manhunt. Federal agents have not disclosed the circumstances of her arrest or whether they recovered the laptop.
In fact, the theft itself and the accusations surrounding her alleged contacts with Russia barely came up during Thursday’s brief court proceeding. Williams did not contest that there was probable cause for the case on felony charges of theft of government property and obstruction of Congress to proceed against her.
Carlson only noted the irony of the fact that the very Constitution that the pro-Trump mob had sought to replace with the “howling of a crowd” when they attacked the Capitol Jan. 6 was now protecting the rioters’ rights in court and had secured Williams’ release from custody while she awaits trial.
“The Constitution prevailed yet again,” he noted at the conclusion of the hearing. “And the Constitution has, is and will be prevailing in your case.”
Williams will now remain under GPS monitoring at the apartment she shares with her mother while her case proceeds in federal court in Washington.
Seven other Pennsylvania residents have also been charged with playing a role in the attack.©2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.