CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police Officer Karol Chwiesiuk, who was charged Friday with taking part in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January, was just “exercising his First Amendment rights” and is “disappointed he didn’t use better judgement,” his attorney said.
Tim Grace, the attorney representing Chwiesiuk against five federal charges he faces in connection with the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, stressed that his client is not accused of any violent behavior or vandalism while he was inside the Capitol building.
“He was exercising his First Amendment rights, and he recognizes that perhaps breaching the steps of the Capitol went a little too far. He did not engage in any violence. No one has accused him of any violence. He says he followed the crowd in there, looked around, took some pictures,” Grace told CBS 2. “He’s disappointed he didn’t use better judgement.”
Chwiesiuk, who has been assigned to desk duty, was charged with five misdemeanors for his role in the storming of the capitol.
According to the charges filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., Chwiesiuk sent a friend a text message on Jan. 6 saying he was in D.C., and claiming:
“Knocked out a commie last night. Don’t tell.”
Other messages he sent that day included:
“There’s so many blacks here I’m actually in disbelief.”
“We inside the capitol lmfao”
“N**** don’t snitch”
Also in the federal charges, authorities said photos show he entered the office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon).
Grace said Chwiesiuk had a conversation with a police officer while in the Capitol, who told Chwiesiuk he should leave, so the officer left the building. Grace said he believes Chwiesiuk was only inside the Capitol for “a short period of time,” but wasn’t sure exactly how long his client was there.
Grace acknowledged Chwiesiuk entered or was near the senator’s office, but said there are “no allegations he vandalized anything.”
Chwiesiuk joined the Chicago Police Department on December 17, 2018. He most recently has been assigned to the 11th (Harrison) District, and is now on desk duty while he faces federal charges.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the officer was on medical leave on the day of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, and traveled to Washington, D.C., by car.
Prior to joining the Chicago Police Department, Chwiesiuk served for more than two years as a correctional officer at the Cook County Sheriff’s office, from April 2016 until he resigned in December 2018.