Vermont man arrested in connection with Jan. 6 Capitol riot
Updated at 7:13 p.m.
A man arrested in Vermont on Wednesday in connection with his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot in Washington, DC, was released from court later that day with plans to return to an Airbnb.
Brian Preller, 33, of Mount Dora, Fla., is facing a felony civil disorder charge. He was also charged with two misdemeanors: entering and staying in a restricted building and disorderly conduct in a restricted building.
Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said he “understands” the arrest took place in Hardwick and that state police “have a few troopers on hand to assist in the arrest”. The Herald of Rutland first reported the arrest.
Preller appeared late Wednesday afternoon in Rutland Federal Court for an initial hearing. He was not required, during the proceedings, to plead against the charges.
During the hearing, Judge Geoffrey Crawford said he understood that “a number of firearms” had been seized in connection with Preller’s arrest.
“Is that your understanding,” the judge asked Preller.
“Yes,” Preller replied.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia Cowles did not ask the court to post cash bail on Preller or keep him in custody. Instead, the prosecutor asked for several release conditions, including that Preller not possess firearms or dangerous weapons, that he remain in Vermont, and that he limit travel to Washington, D.C., only for court appearances or to speak to a lawyer.
Crawford agreed to impose these release conditions without objection from Preller’s attorney.
It was not specified how long Preller had been in Vermont or why. He told the judge he planned to return to an Airbnb where he had stayed.
A Facebook account that federal authorities identified as the videos posted by Preller on Sunday showing Quechee Gorge in Hartford. Preller also posted an image identified as the town of Belvidere in Lamoille County, and wrote elsewhere that he was “just Canada shy”.
Preller declined to comment after the hearing as he crossed the courthouse parking lot and got into a vehicle driven by a woman described as his girlfriend during the proceedings.
According to an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Clarke Burns, Preller “was part of at least one attempt by rioters to force their way into the capital (sic) through the police line.” More than 2,000 people stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Preller attended the riot as a member of an organization called “B Squad,” a subgroup of Florida’s militia-like organization, the Guardians of Freedom, Burns wrote. Preller also identifies a loosely organized anti-government militia group as a “three percenter”, according to the affidavit.
Four other people, all from Florida, are also the subject of the affidavit, in which their names have been redacted. However, they were named in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. as Benjamin Cole, 38, of Leesburg; John Edward Crowley, 50, of Windermere; Jonathan Rockholt, 38, of Palm Coast; and Tyler Bensch, 20, of Casselberry.
On the day of the uprising, Preller was “wearing riot gear”, according to the affidavit, and he and his unnamed co-conspirators carried weapons including metal batons and knives.
Burns wrote that Preller rented a car in Leesburg, Florida on January 5 and returned the car on January 8 after driving a similar number of miles to Washington, DC. Cell phone data also placed Preller on Capitol Hill.
Using photos, the affidavit describes the presence of Preller and the unnamed members of Group B on the “Lower West Terrace” and in “The Tunnel”, two central locations of the riot. From inside the tunnel and “few yards from the police line,” Preller aided in the “heave-ho” effort that attempted to get past police, Burns wrote.
In July 2021, Preller messaged a male friend that he was “continuing to build my 3% army so I can overthrow the feds,” according to the affidavit.
Using images included in the court document, BNC News reported that the man referred to as “B Leader” in the affidavit is Jeremy Liggett. This person booked hotel rooms for more than 40 B Squad members, Burns wrote.
Liggett, a former policeman, ran for US House in Florida as a Republican this year. He also owns Fight Training LLC, a Florida company that teaches customers firearms skills. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Preller told his friends to “Come see me at Fight Training LLC” to learn more about guns.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Mary Nerino, a federal public defender representing Preller, told the judge during her court appearance on Wednesday that her client wanted to leave open the possibility of resolving the case in Vermont rather than Washington, D.C.
Crawford said that would require prosecutors in both jurisdictions to agree to handle the case that way, adding, “I’m not sure that will happen.”
Cowles, the Vermont federal prosecutor, told the judge that Preller had a court hearing scheduled for next week in Washington, DC, and he could attend by video.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age for Preller.
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