WNYer accused of entering Capitol would not tell FBI where he was, prosecutor said

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A Federal prosecutor said the Cheektowaga man charged with entering the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 deadly attack had refused to tell the FBI his whereabouts after they had searched his home.

Pete Harding, 47, appeared remotely in federal court in D.C. Tuesday afternoon for his first appearance in the nation’s capital on charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Harding is accused of entering the U.S. Capitol when it was under attack by an angry mob and attempting to light a piece of plastic on top of television and print media equipment that was destroyed by an angry mob and piled together on the Capitol lawn.

Harding had told News 4 that he did not participate in knocking down the media equipment nor did he commit any acts of violence while in or outside the Capitol.

Stuart Allen, the prosecutor, said the FBI called Harding on Jan. 14 to ask where he was after law enforcement had searched his Cheektowaga home early that morning. But Harding was unwilling to provide his location, Allen said.

When the FBI found Harding at his friend’s house in Elma at about 4 p.m. Jan. 14, the prosecutor said he had with him a backpack with more than $700, clothing, several gifts and debit cards, a razor, five cell phones, and hygiene products.

As a result, the federal government asked Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey to keep Harding on electronic monitoring and other conditions that had been set during his initial visit in federal court in downtown Buffalo on Jan. 15.

Although Harding is being represented by two local attorneys, Shelli Peterson, a public defender in D.C., on Tuesday, was his attorney for this hearing. She said all Harding did was leave his home to visit a friend to avoid any “harassment” from the media.

Therefore, Harding poses no “legitimate” risk of flight, Peterson said.  

“Your honor, I contacted the FBI immediately,” Harding said, to which the judge responded, “Mr. Harding you don’t want to talk.”

Harding is referring to when he had called the FBI shortly after he returned home from the Capitol because people were calling for him to be arrested.

Harvey said because electronic monitoring was ordered in Buffalo, he would agree to continue that until Harding’s case is adjudicated, along with the other conditions, including a curfew of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Harding’s next court appearance will be in at 3 p.m. on Feb 2 in D.C.

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