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Maryland Elections Board member arrested on Jan. 6 riot charges, resigns

A top Maryland elections official resigned Thursday after his arrest this week on multiple charges that he participated in the U.S. Capitol attack, encouraging officers trying to disperse rioters to “join us.”

Federal investigators allege that Carlos Ayala, 52, scaled a police barricade on Jan. 6, 2021, while carrying a black flag that said, “We the People,” before pacing a line of police gathered to quell the riot.

A criminal complaint unsealed after Ayala’s arrest on Tuesday said the flag, which also said “DEFEND” and depicted an M-16-style rifle, was seen on video footage being hoisted through a window where U.S. Capitol Police had erected a makeshift barricade to keep out rioters who had already breached the building. That barricade was ultimately breached again as supporters of President Donald Trump disrupted Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 election results.

The complaint says Ayala’s cellphone number was among those included in geo-fencing data for an area that includes the interior of the U.S. Capitol during the riot. Prosecutors allege that Ayala poked a “We the People” flag on a PVC pole at officers through a Senate wing window as the mob was surging into the building. When the flag was pulled off the pole, the pole was then thrown at the officers, but Ayala is not accused of throwing the pole or actually entering the Capitol.

Ayala, a stepson to Frank Perdue and a former executive at Eastern Shore chicken giant Perdue Farms, declined to comment through his lawyer, James M. Trusty.

A little more than two years after the insurrection, the Maryland Senate unanimously confirmed Ayala in March 2023 as one of the Maryland Republican Party’s two representatives on the five-member Board of Elections that oversees nearly all functions for elections. Secretaries of state hold those powers in many other states.

In a brief confirmation hearing that drew no questions, the state senator from Ayala’s Eastern Shore district introduced him as a pillar of the community, praising his work with Haitian migrants and his career as a senior executive at Perdue Farms, where his titles included “vice president, international.”

“I’m humbled by being able to stand here in front of you and be considered for what I consider to be an extremely important position,” Ayala told the senators. “After having lived in multiple different countries, after having worked with a bunch of different cultures, both abroad and here in the United States, I recognize the importance of this board. And it would be my honor to be able to serve on there and represent the communities that we have, ensuring that people have fair and equal access to the polls.”

Maryland Board of Elections Administrator Jared DeMarinis said Ayala resigned Thursday morning. He will be replaced by a Senate-confirmed designee of the state Republican Party.

“The state board is committed to maintaining the security and integrity of our elections in a nonpartisan manner, and we remain steadfast as the trusted source of information for all Marylanders for election information during this presidential election year,” DeMarinis said.

Ayala also was a member of a local police oversight board in Wicomico County, Md., until Wednesday. In 2022, he was selected by the county’s Police Accountability Board to serve a two-year term on its Administrative Charging Committee, which reviews internal police investigations and decides whether to administratively charge a police officer and recommend discipline. County Executive Julie Giordano said in an email Thursday that Ayala resigned his position Wednesday.

Ayala appeared in federal court in D.C. on Tuesday with Trusty and was released on personal recognizance. A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 8.

He participated in state electoral business as recently as last week, speaking up at a board meeting to advocate for increasing voter access during a discussion of polling places in rural and racially diverse Somerset County.

Ayala was nominated to the board by Gov. Wes Moore (D), who by state law must advance Republicans who have been recommended by the state party. Two other Republicans designated for the state board were ultimately rejected; one by Moore, who cited the candidate’s public criticism of the 2020 election, and the other by state senators who found the candidate’s skepticism about the security of mail-in ballots disqualifying.

“After the 2024 election, the General Assembly should seriously consider whether the process for selecting board members needs to be changed. This should be a wake-up call,” Morgan Drayton, policy and engagement manager at the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, said in a statement.

“It is sickening to think that Ayala was making decisions about our elections after allegedly participating in the attempted insurrection. His disrespect for the voices of Maryland voters and his disregard for the peaceful transfer of power stands in direct contrast to the duties of the Board of Elections.”

Nicole Beus Harris, chair of the state’s Republican Party, said in a statement, “The MDGOP believes in the 1st Amendment and in the American principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. That said, Mr. Ayala did choose to resign because he believes that the 2024 elections process and the State Board of Elections is extremely important and should not be muddied with distraction.”

Perdue didn’t respond to a request for comment, but told WBOC-TV that Ayala resigned from the company in May 2021.

Court documents show that Ayala, who lives in Salisbury, Md., was charged with civil disorder, a felony, and related misdemeanors. The criminal complaint says someone who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally alongside Ayala cooperated with law enforcement about his alleged involvement, building a case that includes video shot by that person, as well as the geo-fencing data that tied Ayala’s phone to the U.S. Capitol and records of online purchases.

The complaint said Ayala wore a “Stop the Steal” button on an American flag hoodie that matched one prosecutors said he had purchased online weeks earlier. Pictures attached to the complaint that prosecutors allege depict Ayala show the hood drawn tight and a 3M-style respirator mask covering almost his entire face. It says an officer working near the Senate Wing door reported a rioter “jabbed” a flag matching the one Ayala was bearing through a broken window.

More than 1,265 individuals have been charged with crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, according to a release announcing Ayala’s arrest.

Ayala is not the first political figure to be swept up in the Jan. 6 dragnet.

Less than two weeks after the riot, a county commissioner in Otero County, N.M., was arrested for a misdemeanor, convicted by a judge and sentenced to 14 days in jail. Couy Griffin then moved into political history when he was thrown off the county commission for violating the 14th Amendment barring insurrectionists from holding office, the same law being used to challenge Donald Trump’s spot on the 2024 election ballot.

Other politicians arrested include Federico Klein, a Trump appointee in the State Department; Derrick Evans, a state legislator in West Virginia; and Ryan Kelley, a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, who were all convicted.

More recently, Philip Sean Grillo, a New York state legislator running for George Santos’s vacated congressional seat, was convicted last month of felony obstruction of an official proceeding. Also last month, Siaka Massaquoi, first vice chair of the Los Angeles County Republican Party, was arrested on misdemeanor charges. Three other Republican political officials in Connecticut, Florida and Maine have been arrested in recent months.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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