Blue Earth man is 13th Minnesotan charged in Jan. 6 Capitol assault

Published 5:51 am Wednesday, November 15, 2023

By Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio News

The FBI on Tuesday arrested a southern Minnesota man on charges that he participated in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., charged Paul Orta Jr. of Blue Earth with a felony count of obstructing police during a civil disorder and misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds.

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According to the criminal complaint, Orta, 34, went to the FBI field office in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Jan. 25, 2021 and “told the agents that he had seen his picture on the FBI website and that he wanted to do the right thing.”

Orta is expected to make his initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Minnesota on Wednesday. Court records do not list a defense attorney for him.

Investigators say that Orta can be seen on video helping to remove metal barriers outside the Capitol, which allowed rioters to advance toward the building. Orta also allegedly threw an unknown object toward police.

During the 2021 interview with investigators, Orta allegedly explained “that he had gone past the ‘first barrier,’ but that he did not go past the ‘second barrier,’” and denied going inside the Capitol building.

The complaint also alleges that Orta was among four individuals found on a privately-owned school bus “covered in Trump 2020 graffiti” that police in Prince George’s County, Maryland stopped the day before the attack for having expired North Carolina license plates. The four were checked for weapons and released.

A short time later, Metropolitan Police Department officers stopped the same bus in downtown Washington. Orta was still aboard, and police arrested the driver and owner of the bus, who were both from North Carolina, after officers allegedly found a 9mm pistol, a .22 caliber rifle, and ammunition for both weapons. Orta was searched and released following that second traffic stop.

Orta is the 13th Minnesotan to be charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, in which Donald Trump’s supporters rushed into the Capitol in an effort to stop the counting of electoral votes and reverse the former president’s loss to Joe Biden.

Five of the 13 Minnesotans have been convicted. Victoria Charity White, 41, of Rochester faces sentencing on Monday after pleading guilty to obstructing police.

A Jan. 19 sentencing hearing is scheduled for Brian Christopher Mock of Minneapolis, who was seen on video shoving two police officers to the ground and kicking one of them outside the Capitol. Mock, 44, waived his right to a jury trial, and Judge James Boasberg convicted him of all six felony and five misdemeanor charges following a bench trial over the summer.

In its latest update on Jan. 6 prosecutions, the U.S. Justice Department said that as of Nov. 3, 1,202 defendants from across the country have been charged in the attack, and more than half have pleaded guilty to federal charges.