CLEVELAND, Ohio – Christine Priola, a former Cleveland Schools occupational therapist, was arrested Thursday morning and charged with participating in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.
Priola, 49, appeared shortly before Judge Jonathan Greenberg in Cleveland District Court, who referred her case to the District of Columbia. There, federal prosecutors have indicted about two dozen others.
Priola, of Willoughby, is accused of knowingly entering or staying in a restricted building. forced entry; and illegal activity on the Capitol grounds. She was released on a certificate of appreciation, with her travel limited to northern Ohio and Washington for trial. Defense attorneys represented her at the hearing on Thursday.
Authorities said she was among the dozen of rioters in Washington who broke barricades and stormed the Capitol while Congress attended the session to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
The protesters first attended a rally in front of the Capitol where President Trump spoke. Many described the storming of the building as a riot to aid Trump’s attempts to stay in power. Four rioters and a Capitol Hill police officer died in hand-to-hand combat.
Priola became suspicious after a photographer for Getty Images snapped a picture in the U.S. Senate Chamber with protesters reveling and entering the house. The photo showed a woman at the front of the chamber carrying a sign that read, “The Children Shout For Justice”. Several people on social media identified the woman as Priola.
In an affidavit filed on Thursday, David Kasulones, a US deputy marshal, said the FBI received an anonymous tip on Friday, Jan. 8, which included Priola as the woman in the photo. Authorities compared the photos of the woman in the Senate Chambers with other photos of the Willoughby woman.
Late Friday evening Authorities ransacked Priola’s house. According to an affidavit from Kasulones, they confiscated a laptop, two desktop computers and several USB sticks. The agents also recovered clothing, indicating that they “and other materials were in line with the photos of Priola taken on January 6,” Kasulones wrote.
Investigators were also able to follow her movements on her cell phone last week. At one point during the attack, she was standing northeast of the Capitol Building, according to the deputy marshal’s affidavit.
The day after the rally, Priola submitted her resignation from the school district in a conspiratorial letter to officials. In it, she said she refused to take a coronavirus vaccine to return to class and disagreed with union dues “that help fund people and groups that support the killing of unborn children”.
She also said she “will switch paths to expose the global evils of human trafficking and pedophilia, including in our government agencies and child welfare agencies.”
Priola graduated from Eastlake North High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Capital University before going to the University of Indianapolis for her degree, according to her personnel file. Since August 2000 she has been working as an occupational therapist at the Cleveland Schools. She has a grown daughter.
“I’ve known for many years that I wanted to work with children and help them develop,” Priola wrote to the school officials. “I understand that development in the critical years of childhood forms the basis for a healthy, safe and respectful life.”
In performance reviews, managers praised their work, reliability, and friendliness in helping students with special needs.
“Christine is a hardworking professional,” wrote a manager in the early 2000s. “She’s a team player who doesn’t complain. [Priola] gets along well with students, parents and teachers. She is a pleasure to work with. “
She worked for the district for about a dozen years before taking a year off. She returned in 2014. She was on vacation when she attended the rally in Washington, DC
A Cleveland Schools spokeswoman said the district does not comment on personnel issues, “especially if they are part of an ongoing investigation.”
However, the district issued a statement saying that it “deeply condemns the actions of those involved in the riots in the Capitol and the Capitol. The right to peaceful protest, as protected by the first amendment, is a foundation of our democracy. The violent takeover and deliberate destruction of our government is not. “
While Priola’s personnel file provides a glowing representation of her work, court records offer a different perspective. She changed her last name from Snyder to Priola in 2015, six years after their divorce.
“I don’t want that name anymore,” she said in a document filed in the Lake County Probate Court. She changed her name to Priola, her grandmother’s maiden name.
She later remarried in May 2018. She filed for divorce seven months later, according to records.