A Churchville man who drew FBI scrutiny after his wife took to social media to defend his presence among the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 has become the fifth Bucks County resident charged in connection with the deadly riot.
Gary Edwards, 68, was caught on security video and livestreams shared on social media milling among the crowds inside the Capitol Rotunda, prosecutors said Tuesday. But to hear his wife describe it on Facebook, the whole affair had a collegial atmosphere.
“Okay ladies, let me tell you what happened as my husband was there inside the Capitol,” Lynn Feiler Edwards wrote in a now-deleted post, according to an FBI affidavit filed in her husband’s case.
Sure, she said, Edwards followed a “small group of young men dressed in military garb” into the building after watching them break down police barricades, smash a window to climb inside, and then break furniture on their way toward storming the upper floors.
But Edwards, she wrote, spent his time in the building helping to flush tear gas from the eyes of other rioters, chatting amicably with police, and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“These were people who watched their rights being taken away,” she wrote. “Their votes stolen from them, their state officials violating the constitutions of their country.”
Apparently, someone in her friend group disagreed.
According to the FBI affidavit, an anonymous tipster took a screen shot of the Facebook musings and forwarded them to agents in February. Investigators later uncovered the social media photos and video and security footage corroborating Edwards’ wife’s account of his presence during the insurrection.
Agents arrested Edwards on Tuesday and charged him with counts including violent entry of Capitol grounds, disorderly conduct, and disruption of official business — the most serious of which could send him to prison for up to a year should he be convicted.
Neither Edwards nor his attorney, federal public defender Maranna J. Meehan, could be reached for comment Wednesday.
There was little in the public-facing social media profiles of Edwards or his wife to suggest what motivated his presence in Washington on Jan. 6. Public records show that up until at least 2012, he was a registered Democrat and had changed his voter registration status to “unaffiliated” sometime thereafter.
He now joins the more than 414 others charged in connection with the riot, including at least 40 Pennsylvanians. Within the state, Bucks County is home to the largest concentration of defendants — a list that includes Dawn Bancroft, 55, of Doylestown, who bragged in a selfie video that she was looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “to shoot her in the friggin’ brain,” and Ryan Samsel, 37, of Bristol, accused of sparring with officers while trying to tear down police barricades outside the Capitol building. Raechel Genco, 38, of Levittown, who traveled to Washington with Samsel, has also been charged, as has Diana Santos-Smith, who was arrested along with Bancroft.
Authorities have arrested at least 14 people from New Jersey, the latest of whom was charged Tuesday.
Prosecutors accused Robert Lee Petrosh, 51, of Mays Landing, of illegally entering Capitol grounds after three tipsters identified him to authorities. One of them told investigators that Petrosh’s own mother had told her that her son had breached the Capitol building with the rioters. Another, an unidentified FBI task force officer who said he has known Petrosh for 15 years, picked him out of security camera footage taken that day.
Petrosh faces charges including entering a restricted area, disorderly conduct, and demonstrating on Capitol grounds. His attorney, Steven P. Sheffler, has declined to comment.
Edwards and Petrosh have been released pending trials that will play out before federal judges in Washington. Both men are expected to make their first appearances in court there later this month.