Colbert crew's behavior in Capitol complex caused Democrat staffer to call for emergency help

Capitol Police chief says "Colbert Nine" were warned "several times" before arrest, slams prosecutors' decision not to press charges as "unfortunate."

Published: July 19, 2022 8:22pm

Updated: July 20, 2022 12:37am

Stephen Colbert's comedy crew was warned "several times" it could not trespass on Capitol grounds, and its behavior in a congressional office building during an unauthorized nighttime visit was so boisterous it caused a Democratic congressman's staff to fear for his safety and call for emergency help, police say.

The description that authorities provided members of Congress this week — loud banging on doors, talk of a "cocaine orgy" and threats to place something under a congressman's door — is far different than the light-hearted account of "first-degree puppetry" that the CBS television comic offered after last month's high-profile arrest of his team.

The decision by the Biden Justice Department to decline prosecution of nine Colbert staffers for unlawful entry clearly upset the department, according to an official letter from the department's chief obtained by Just the News.

"It is unfortunate that despite all of the evidence the Department presented, including that the group or its leader had been told several times that they could not be in the buildings without an escort, that the U.S. Attorney's office declined to prosecute any members of the group for Unlawful Entry," Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger wrote Republican Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois and Jim Jordan of Ohio in a letter dated Tuesday.

Manger revealed in the letter that the nine members of Colbert's staff who were arrested June 16 for unauthorized access to a House office building had previously been rejected for press credentials by the House Radio/TV Gallery, had been warned multiple times they could not stay in Capitol buildings without an escort, and were ejected by police from the complex just hours before their arrest for violating building rules.

The chief also revealed that two of the nine staffers when arrested refused to cooperate, citing their Miranda rights, and that one of the staffers initially falsely told responding police officers the Colbert crew was "credentialed staff."

You can read the full letter here:

The arrests occurred after an aide to Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman called police because he felt threatened by the team's behavior and feared for his safety. The crew was pretending to place invitations to a "cocaine orgy" at the Capitol and was boisterous but not filming at the time police arrested them, the letter states.

"On June 16, 2022, at approximately 8:26 p.m., the United States Capitol Police (USCP) communications center received a call from a staffer for Rep. Jamaal Bowman, (D-NY) working in Room 1605 of the Longworth House Office Building (LHOB)," the letter said, redacting the staffer's name. "He advised he could hear a man shouting outside his office, which is next to Rep. Lauren Boebert's office (R-Colo.)."

The Bowman aide, the letter continued, "stated he heard a man banging on Rep Boebert's office door saying, 'Do you remember me? Do you remember me? It's me. We're going to leave something under your door.'"

The Bowman aide "stated he was very concerned, locked his office door for safety and called the USCP emergency number," according to Manger.

Davis, the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, which oversees Capitol security, told Just the News on Tuesday night that federal prosecutors' decision to decline prosecution of the Colbert team only further created the perception of a two-tier system of justice.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Washington D.C. that made the Colbert decision is the same one that has prosecuted scores of Jan. 6 defendants for trespassing and other crimes related to the Capitol riot.

"The decision by the Department of Justice to not pursue the charges recommended by USCP further highlights the politicization of Capitol security and the double standard for Democrats," Davis said. "This detailed response and corresponding evidence makes clear that the Colbert crew knew what they were doing was wrong, but they wouldn't have to deal with any consequences."

A spokeswoman for CBS did not immediately return a request for comment  on behalf of Colbert or the network.

Manger's letter states that when police apprehended the team members, they claimed to be filming a skit, but no cameras were found operating.

One of the arrested crew members "disclosed the group's intention was to film comic skits with a puppet (Triumph the Insult Dog) outside the offices of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-R), Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-R), Rep. Lauren Boebert, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (GA-R)," the letter stated.

The "officer did not witness the team filming at the time he responded, but noted the group had multiple backpacks and folded-up signs with them when he made initial contact," the letter added. One of the crew members "stated that the group was pretending to leave notes under the Member's doors as part of the skits, but did not actually leave anything," Manger explained. "The note was allegedly an invitation to a cocaine orgy."

Police said the crew did not have any official appointments on the day they were arrested but did have appointments a day earlier when they remained with their escorts inside congressional buildings. Staff from the offices of Democratic Reps. Jake Auchincloss and Ted Lieu were involved in helping the crew gain access to the congressional office buildings, the letter stated.

One of the Colbert crew members told the police who arrested her that police had warned the crew when they first entered the building "that they needed to stay with their staff escort at all times" and that earlier in the day they were ejected from a different congressional office building for not having an escort. Another admitted that the House press gallery, which rejected a request for press credentials, also had warned the crew they could not remain in the building unescorted, the letter stated.

Police officers decided to arrest all nine crew members when they were encountered later that night because they "determined the group had violated the building regulations a second time," the letter stated.

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