A western New York man who was recorded trying to set fire to news media equipment and walking through the U.S. Capitol during last week’s siege appeared for a remote hearing Thursday in federal court, where his lawyer said his actions were “peaceful in nature.”
Peter J. Harding, 47, was arrested Wednesday on misdemeanor counts of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
They are the same charges leveled against Syracuse resident Albert Ciarpelli, who acknowledged taking pictures in the U.S. Capitol as part of what he called a “little adventure.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kruly said Harding knowingly tried to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote that finalized President-elect Joseph Biden’s victory. The Cheektowaga resident’s follow-up social media posts, he said, “expressed a desire to engage in similar conduct in the future.”
“If we can take the Capitol building there is nothing we can’t accomplish,” the prosecutor quoted Harding as saying in a video.
Harding was granted release with conditions that include monitoring of his location and internet activity.
“Mr. Harding believes that the evidence … will bear out that his intention of being there was to protest peacefully and that his actions were peaceful in nature and not violent while in there,” his attorney, Jason DiPasquale, said in unsuccessfully opposing monitoring.
Harding, he said, is self-employed in construction.
Ciarpelli told federal agents several days ago he entered the Capitol through a partially opened door and characterized his more than 15 minutes walking through the building and taking pictures as a “little adventure.” He eventually thought it was best to leave.
Thinking back, Ciarpelli told agents “that he was out of his mind and had never done anything like that before,” according to court documents.
He pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon and was released. He is due back to court in Washington on Jan. 25, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Southwick.
Harding is due back in court in Washington on Jan. 19.
Both Ciarpelli and Harding were captured in news and surveillance photographs inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 breach, and photos of them were released by the FBI.
Harding also was recorded outside holding a lighter flame to gear belonging to The Associated Press and other outlets.