TAMPA – A couple from Largo were arrested this week on charges stemming from the January 6 uprising on Capitol Hill.
According to federal court records, Marilyn and Thomas Fassell were among a crowd of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol following the November 2020 election. Surveillance footage and photos – including a selfie of Marilyn Fassell, 58, smoking a cigarette – confirms they were inside for about 40 minutes, a federal agent wrote in a September 9 complaint that was unsealed Thursday.
They each face four charges: entering or staying in a building or on restricted land; disorderly and disruptive driving in a building or on a restricted site; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parade, demonstrate or picket in the Capitol.
“It’s a joke if you ask me,” Marilyn Fassell told the Tampa Bay Times.
She and her husband said they didn’t think entering the building was illegal because they had been invited inside by a man they believed to be a Capitol Police officer. Thomas Fassell, 67, said the man wore black pants and a black uniform shirt that matched what other officers wore.
This was not the first report that police had helped rioters. A month after the siege, Capitol Police officials announced they were investigating dozens of them, some of whom were caught on video escorting rioters into the building.
Tom Fassell, who said he was a disabled US Air Force veteran and a retired US Postal Service employee, added that neither he nor his wife engaged in disorderly conduct, other than his wife smoking a cigarette. They both believe the insurgency was organized by antifa, a left-wing group of anti-fascist activists, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.
There is no evidence that this is the case, and federal agents have repeatedly debunked this claim. The Fassells, like many that day, said they went to Washington because they believed voter fraud caused Trump’s defeat in the November 2020 election, a claim that also has no factual basis. The siege came as Congress prepared to certify the Electoral College’s results, sending senators and representatives, including Pelosi, to flee for security reasons.
Online counseling led the FBI to the Fassells, according to the complaint. A woman told a federal agent that on January 10, her colleague, Thomas Fassell, boasted and showed videos of him and his wife inside the Capitol during the uprising.
Thomas Fassell said on Friday he was not bragging. On the contrary, he said, he wanted to show how beautiful the interior of the Capitol was. He and his wife had never been there before. The Fassells also stressed that they were cooperating with the authorities.
“We are law-abiding people,” said Marilyn Fassell, adding that she is a home health aide who works with elderly patients. “So I have a heart. I just don’t want communism to come to our country.
On January 22, federal agents questioned the Fassells at their home in Largo. Marilyn Fassell told officers that she and her husband entered through the front doors, which were partially broken, and that they did not know it was illegal to enter inside. The interview summary included in the complaint does not mention what they said to the Times Friday about a police officer inviting them to enter.
The complaint cites several videos officers found on Thomas Fassell’s phone. In one of them, Marilyn Fassell can be heard saying, “We broke up on Capitol Hill.” In another, she said, “This is my house, we pay taxes for it” and “We pay their wages”.
The Fassells turned into authorities on Wednesday at the Federal Courthouse in Tampa, Thomas Fassell said. Their first appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday. These are two of the more than 600 people who were indicted in the events of January 6.
Capitol and Washington DC police are planning another protest by Trump allies scheduled for this weekend. It aims to support those imprisoned for charges arising from the siege of the Capitol.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times cover of the United States Capitol
RESPOND TO THE RESPONSE: Did Race Play a Role in the Police Treatment of the U.S. Capitol Crowd?
CALL TO ACTION: Charlie Crist: dismiss Donald Trump from office by invoking the 25th amendment
25TH AMENDMENT: When can it be used against a president?
EDITORIAL: The Ugly Show captured the Trump-era GOP perfectly.
CLASS SUBJECTS: Tampa Bay teachers and parents brace for difficult conversations after siege on the U.S. Capitol
POLITIFACT CHECKS THE HEADQUARTERS: Here’s a look at the short session of the day and the chaos that interrupted it.
We’re working hard to bring you the latest coronavirus news in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to collect and update. If you are not yet a subscriber, please consider purchasing a print or digital subscription.