North Country January 6 rioter: ‘Everyone was so nice’

This image from video provided by the FBI, shows Maryann Mooney-Rondon and her son Rafael...
This image from video provided by the FBI, shows Maryann Mooney-Rondon and her son Rafael Rondon, of Watertown, N.Y., inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.(AP)
Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 12:14 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A Watertown man who participated in the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol says the gathering that day “felt like old times. It was relieving. Everyone was so nice.”

Those are the words of Raphael Rondon, who is 25. Federal prosecutors are recommending he spend 51 months in federal prison for his actions on January 6. He is scheduled for sentencing September 12.

His mother, 57-year-old Maryann Mooney-Rondon, also took part in the riot of January 6, and prosecutors are recommending she spend 46 months in prison. She, too, will be sentenced September 12.

Neither Rondon has spoken to the press. They did, however, answer questions from the FBI, and their statements are part of a government document made public this week.

That document gives the clearest picture so far of how the Rondons see their actions of that day. What they describe is a good time that got very far out of hand. On that day, rioters supporting then-President Donald Trump attempted to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as the winner of the race for President.

Earlier this month, Trump was indicted on four charges related to his conduct between the election of 2020 and the events of January 6.

The Rondons entered the Capitol about 10 minutes after it was first breached, went to then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office where they helped a man steal a government laptop, and then went into the Senate Chambers, where they stole some emergency equipment before leaving the building.

Raphael Rondon told investigators he and his mother went to Washington to attend then-President Trump’s ‘Stop The Steal’ rally, though he also acknowledged planning to enter the Capitol building.

“For me personally . . . It felt amazing. Because, for the first time in a whole year and some odd months, I was gathered with people, and people weren’t . . . looking at you weird because you didn’t have a mask on,” Rondon told investigators. (In January 2021, Covid-19 was hitting a peak, and mandatory masking was widespread.)

“It was almost like things were normal again for a couple hours . . . It’s probably, unfortunately, never going to be that way again . . . It felt like old times. It was relieving . . . Everyone was so nice.”

The government report notes “Rondon wanted to see former President Trump speak, whom Rondon called ‘one of the greatest comedians.’”

Maryann Mooney-Rondon “admitted that prior to her entry she was aware Congress was engaged in the certification of the election inside the Capitol Building,” according to the government document.

Again, from the government document: “Agents asked Mooney-Rondon what she was thinking when she entered the Capitol Building through the breached Senate Wing Door. She replied, ‘Holy cow!’ Agents pressed Mooney-Rondon, asking whether her observations up to that point had caused her to pause and think about going into the building. She replied, ‘You know, I’ve thought about this . . . a little bit. I’m a very—generally—measured, calculated person. I think things through. How the heck that happened, I really don’t have a clue . . . Next thing you know, we’re in the Capitol. I’m not going to lie.’”

Mooney-Rondon told investigators “It was literally utter chaos . . . It was almost like we all were just a bunch of tourists.”

“I didn’t take anything, unless you count the gas masks. I didn’t break in, so to speak, we walked in . . . Obviously, we should not have gone in, but we didn’t really do a whole lot,” she said.

Federal prosecutors are having none of it.

Raphael Rondon has pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and Mooney-Rondon was found guilty after a trial of obstructing an official proceeding and theft of government property.

“Defendants and other rioters like them stole items belonging to Members of Congress and staff, sat on tabletops as Rondon did, put their feet up on U.S. Senators’ desks, stole or destroyed symbolic items throughout the Capitol, and shuffled through official documents, scattering them on the floor,” prosecutors wrote.

“Much like a school bully perusing through a victim’s locker or lunchbox, the only plausible purpose of that kind of conduct is to send a message to Members of Congress and staff in the building: that the rioters, not Members of Congress or their staff, were in control. That message of intimidation was sent to force Congress to delay the certification, to try to influence Congress to change its vote, or at a minimum to punish (i.e., retaliate against) Congress should it go through with the certification. It is difficult to conceive of any other purpose beyond intimidation or retaliation that this riotous conduct could have served.

“Rondon and Mooney-Rondon’s criminal conduct on January 6 was the epitome of disrespect for the law.”

When federal agents raided the Rondon home in the Town of Watertown June 29, 2021, they were led to a sawed-off shotgun belonging to Raphael. He is scheduled to begin a 14-month prison sentence for that in mid-September.