If Anthony Williams had his way, he’d be in sunny Jamaica later this month, vacationing with his girlfriend and impressing her family.
But Williams, a Michigan man accused of storming the U.S. Capitol a year ago in what he allegedly called the “proudest day of my life,” can’t travel outside the country without a federal judge’s approval. So on Thursday, the anniversary of the Capitol riot, he filed a motion to get it.
Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell denied his request within hours.
“This Court will not commemorate the one-year anniversary of this attack on the Capitol by granting defendant’s request for non-essential foreign travel when he is awaiting judgment for his actions on that day,” Howell wrote.
Those actions, according to the FBI, include illegally entering the Capitol. In one video taken while inside the building, Williams talked about how he and others “stormed” the Capitol and “pushed back the cops,” FBI agent Matthew Hughes said in a sworn affidavit.
Williams is indicted on five charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and has pleaded not guilty. He’s one of more than 700 people to face charges for their alleged roles in the attack on the Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob broke into the building as lawmakers were certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Biden on Thursday sharply criticized former president Donald Trump for his role in the lead-up to the attack. In a speech at the Capitol on the anniversary of the attack, Biden accused Trump of spreading “a web of lies about the 2020 election,” which the former president still falsely claims was stolen.
Williams, in his request on Thursday, said he wished to visit Jamaica from Jan. 31 to Feb. 10 to meet his girlfriend’s family. He planned to stay with her at her father’s home in Negril, on the western edge of the island, and work at a local nonprofit called St. Anthony’s Kitchen, which feeds the poor, according to the motion filed by Williams’s attorney.
Williams has been on pretrial release since March 2021, when he made his first court appearance, the request states. Williams, his lawyer added, “has appeared consistently” at court hearings in connection to his case.
“Respectfully, his demonstrated compliance with conditions in this case is compelling evidence that he will continue to comply with conditions if this request is granted,” attorney Benton Martin said in the motion.
Martin did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment on the judge’s denial.
FBI officials said they first learned of Williams through an online tipster who sent screenshots of posts from Williams’s Facebook account. Investigators spoke with the person, who described several other since-deleted posts that showed Williams inside the Capitol, according to court documents.
Federal agents later obtained pictures and videos of Williams inside the Capitol, court records state. In one video, Williams talked about successfully entering the Capitol, adding that “desperate times call for desperate measures,” Hughes, the FBI agent, said. Williams also allegedly posed next to and near several statues once inside the building.
In another video, the FBI agent said, Williams talked about how he and others “stormed” the Capitol and “pushed back the cops,” who used pepper spray. Williams claimed that “we took this … building.”
The records also revealed Williams’s actions in the weeks and months leading up to Jan. 6, the FBI agent said. On Nov. 13, less than a week after Biden was declared the winner, Williams denounced on Facebook the “‘Americans’ who participated in [the] fraudulent scheme to overthrow our duly elected President” as “TRAITORS,” the agent said. Williams allegedly included several hashtags in his post: #FightBack, #HOLDTHELINE, #Trump2020 and #NoRetreatNoSurrender.
“Every lie will be revealed,” he wrote, according to court documents.
By the end of December, Williams had solidified plans to travel to D.C. in early January 2021, according to the FBI. In one post, Williams allegedly wrote, “We gonna Storm the Swamp.”
Three days after the insurrection, Williams sent a Facebook message in which he identified himself as an “Operation Swamp Storm Veteran,” according to the FBI, and characterized the riot as a “modern day tea party.”
“Was proudest day of my life lol felt like the founding fathers were smiling down on us in that room,” he wrote, according to court documents.
Howell, the federal judge, referenced one of Williams’s alleged comments when denying the travel request. She said she understood why Williams wished to escape “the Michigan winter to spend ten days in the warmer climes of Jamaica.”
“Although such a meeting may be an important step in defendant’s personal relationship,” Howell wrote in her order, “[Williams] surrendered his entitlement to unfettered international travel when … he allegedly announced his intent to ‘Storm the Swamp.'”