Howell, of Swoyersville, investigated by FBI
SWOYERSVILLE — A Luzerne County woman has been hit with a number of charges after a newly unsealed FBI affidavit says she was among those who illegally entered the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Annie Howell, of Swoyersville, was first investigated by the FBI after three witnesses and an anonymous tipster submitted evidence regarding her involvement with the Capitol insurrection.
According to an affidavit, the first witness contacted the FBI on Jan. 7, just a day after the insurrection, telling officials that Howell had filmed videos inside the Capitol building and had shared them to Facebook. The witness also told the FBI that she could be heard in the videos chanting “Whose house? Our house!” and “Fight for Trump.”
A second witness told investigators during an interview said that they had personal knowledge that Howell had traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, to take part in then-President Donald Trump’s rally planned for Jan. 6, while a joint session of Congress was taking place to certify the results of the 2020 election.
According to Witness 2, they were provided by Howell with a video that Howell took from inside the Capitol. The video is taken from inside a “ransacked conference room inside the Capitol with broken furniture strewn about and televisions ripped off the wall.” In the video, a female voice can be heard leading the aforementioned chants, and Witness 2 identified that voice as Howell’s.
Witness 2 also provided screenshots of a Facebook Messenger group chat, in which Howell told the group that she was inside the Capitol just before 5 p.m. on Jan. 6.
In the FBI’s affidavit, several screenshots of posts made by Howell on her Facebook page are included, including a post in which she accuses Antifa of being the ones that broke into the Capitol, not Trump supporters.
“ANTIFA LEADER IS THE ONE WHO BROKE INTO THE CAPITAL!” reads one of the posts in part.
The FBI says individuals in Facebook chats implored Howell to leave the Capitol building, to which Howell allegedly responded:
“No… No… They just killlex (sic) two (expletive) women… American women… No… I WATCHED THEM DIE… NO (expletive) WAY.”
Additionally, information revealed through a Facebook search warrant suggests that Howell’s father warned her through a Facebook message not to add iCloud backup to her phone.
“Stay off the clouds! They are how they are screwing with us,” the FBI says the message reads.
“Based on the context, your affiant believes that Howell’s father provided this guidance to Howell in order to ensure incriminating material was not to be uncovered on Howell’s device if law enforcement seized Howell’s phone,” the affidavit reads.
Howell was arrested on March 8, according to federal court documents, and charged with obstruction of an official proceding and aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and destructive conduct in a restrictive building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol Building. Information on those charges came from a grand jury indictment.
According to the Associated Press, a message seeking comment was left Tuesday for her public defender, Brandon R. Reish in Scranton. The case was unsealed Monday, and Howell is being prosecuted in Washington, the AP reported.
Court records show that Howell made an initial appearance before federal Judge Karoline Mehalchick of the Middle District of Pennsylvania and released on bail. A video appearance is scheduled for this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.