By Jody DiPerna
Pittsburgh Current Senior Contributor
On Friday morning, the FBI arrested Russell James Peterson, 34, of Rochester (Beaver County), for his actions during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building. At the initial videoconference hearing held later that afternoon, Peterson participated from an FBI field office, with his cloth mask worn under his nose.
Peterson traveled to DC for ex-President Trump’s January 6 rally with his wife, Elizabeth Peterson and his mother, Shelley Peterson. The charges he faces at this time are Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds, Disorderly Conduct Which Impedes the Conduct of Government Business, Disruptive Conduct in the Capitol Buildings, Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Buildings. They come with a maximum of 18 months in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
Peterson hit the FBI’s radar on January 11 when they requested a warrant to search his Facebook account. During the Capitol riot, he live streamed from that account and at least two videos were made from inside the Capitol, in the area known as the Crypt.
A witness who said they were a friend of Shelly Peterson’s contacted the FBI. The witness said that Shelly posted a status on her Facebook saying her son Russell stormed the Capitol and “sat in Pelosi’s chair.” The witness also pulled photos from Shelly’s Facebook which show Shelly, Russell and Elizabeth Peterson in what Shelly termed ‘the protest area.’ (Shelly is wearing the Trump hat, Elizabeth is in the red hat, and Russell is in the “f*** your feelings” sweatshirt and ballcap with a flag on it.)
At the hearing, Russell Peterson reported that he has been unemployed for about a year and requested the government provide representation for him. Sarah Levin, a federal public defender for the Western District of Pennsylvania, represented Peterson during Friday’s proceedings. He was not detained and was released to return home.
Peterson’s preliminary hearing will be held one day this week via videoconference.