HUNTINGTON — Del. Derrick Evans, R-Wayne, was arraigned Friday on federal charges for his role in an incursion of the U.S. Capitol earlier this week.
Evans, whose full name is Jonathan Derrick Evans, was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Huntington and released on his own recognizance.
The 35-year-old is charged with two misdemeanors — entering a restricted area, and violent entry or disorderly conduct — and faces up to 18 months in federal prison and a fine as a result.
While Evans was arraigned, his new colleagues in the West Virginia House of Delegates were considering the means by which he could be removed from office, and Republican Gov. Jim Justice called Evans’ actions “a scar on West Virginia.”
The affidavit filed by an investigating FBI agent states Evans livestreamed to his Facebook page a video showing him joining and encouraging a group to unlawfully enter the Capitol. He was identified in several ways, one of which was him saying his name in the recording.
The agent references previous Facebook posts in which Evans referenced “taking back America,” “stop the steal” and “a storm coming.” Evans also posted a picture of a charter bus full of mask-less people, which he said was headed to Washington, D.C.
In a statement released Thursday, Evans’ attorney John H. Bryan said the lawmaker did nothing wrong, and did not engage in violent, rioting, destruction of property or illegal behavior.
Bryan said Evans was exercising his First Amendment rights to peacefully protest and film.
The agent said while Evans claimed he was there as part of the media, he believed nothing on Evans’ social media pages indicated he was acting in such capacity.
The United States has 30 days to indict Evans in the case, and did not seek to detain him.
He was released on a personal recognizance bond, which means he was released without having to post any money for bond.
As a condition of his bond, he must continue with his employment and must cease all contact with anyone who could be a witness in the case. He must turn over any firearms he possesses and must refrain from using drugs or alcohol during the case. However, his travel was not restricted within the United States.
If Evans violates any of the conditions of his bond, a judge can order him to jail to await trial.
Evans declined to comment upon leaving the courthouse after his arraignment Friday, shortly before 5 p.m. He will have to report to a federal court in the District of Columbia once a future date is set.
Clint Maynard, 68, of Wayne County, came to the federal courthouse in Huntington on Friday to show his support for Evans, who he believes is being wrongfully charged.
“I live in District 19 and voted for Derrick Evans,” Maynard said. “I think charging him is totally unwarranted because he literally walked into the building and fist-bumped the guards, talked to the guards and was on the side of the building where there was no vandalism and nothing being destroyed. They believed they were being invited in. Basically, they are going to try to make him the poster child of everything bad that happened in Washington, D.C., and that shouldn’t happen.”
Charges against Evans were announced Friday by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin during a news conference announcing charges against people who forced entry into the federal Capitol on Wednesday as Congress worked to certify the results of the 2020 general election.
State lawmakers have called for Evans to resign from the Legislature, and for House members and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, to take action to remove Evans from office if he refuses.
On Thursday, Evans’ attorney released a statement saying Evans was not guilty of any crime and did not participate in any violent activity or property theft or damage. He also said Evans had no intention of resigning from office.
On Friday, House Minority Counsel Joe Altizer said attorneys in the Legislature had identified at least two means by which the House could prevent Evans from participating in actual lawmaking.
The first way would be to invoke Rule 30 in the Rules of the House of Delegates.
In that rule, any member who is found to have engaged in “disorderly conduct” can be removed from the chamber if two-thirds of the members of the House vote in favor of it. The rule does not say whether the conduct has to have occurred in the House chamber in order for a member to be expelled from the chamber.
“That’s the one more normally used,” Altizer said.
House members also have the means to object to the seating of any of their colleagues if they believe there is a reason they should be disqualified from serving, Altizer said.
Something that might earn that disqualification would be a delegate who is elected but isn’t old enough to serve in office.
In the case of Evans, who was sworn into office Dec. 1, it could be a matter of him violating the oath of office.
Regardless of the reason, it takes only a simple majority of the House to disqualify another member from being seated in office.
If it is the will of House members to challenge Evans’ eligibility to be seated, they will have to do so when the West Virginia Legislature certifies the state’s election results when it convenes for an organizational day Wednesday, Jan. 13.
The 60-day regular legislative session is scheduled to begin Feb. 10.
Defendants charged with federal crimes are innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.