Stephen Ayres entered the Capitol with the Jan. 6 mob. Now he’s back as a witness.


Tuesday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing is featuring a new kind of witness: For the first time, a defendant who faced criminal charges for taking part in the attack on the Capitol will testify live in front of the panel.

The defendant, Stephen Ayres, was arrested in Ohio and pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Mr. Ayres is expected to tell the panel how former President Donald J. Trump inspired the mob to gather at and ultimately storm into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to a person familiar with the matter. He was first reported as a witness for the committee by ABC News.

A little more than a week before the building was attacked, Mr. Ayres warned on social media that a civil war would erupt if Mr. Trump did not remain in power. As Jan. 6 drew nearer, court papers say, Mr. Ayres posted an image on Facebook citing a Twitter post by Mr. Trump inviting his supporters to Washington for a “wild” protest.

That tweet — posted by the former president on Dec. 19, 2020 — will figure prominently at the hearing on Tuesday as the panel seeks to implicate Mr. Trump as the driving force behind the riot. While ordinary protesters like Mr. Ayres were encouraged by the tweet, it was received with particular urgency by far-right extremist groups, which sprang into action for Jan. 6, almost immediately after it was posted on to Twitter.

Mr. Ayres was only in the Capitol for about 10 minutes, court papers say. But prosecutors note that on the day after the attack, he took part in a video posted on YouTube that claimed without basis that Democratic politicians, the police and leftist activists had conspired to instigate the attack.

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