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Former Cleveland schools employee charged for alleged role in riot at U.S. Capitol

Christine Priola was freed on bond after being charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds

CLEVELAND — A former occupational therapist for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has been charged for her role in the riots and breach at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. last week. 

According to documents filed in United States District Court, 49-year-old Christine Priola faces charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and unlawful activities on Capitol grounds.

Priola was freed on a $20,000 personal bond following her initial court appearance Thursday afternoon via Zoom in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. She was ordered to be placed on electronic monitoring in her home and is not permitted to travel. 

She only uttered "Yes, your honor" during the 20 minute hearing. She faces up to two years in prison, if convicted. Two federal public defenders were assigned to Priola, who quit her job a day after the riots.

Priola was arrested by FBI agents at her house on Thursday morning. She is currently in the custody of U.S. Marshals and is scheduled to appear for a hearing in front of US Federal Magistrate William Baughman on Thursday afternoon. 

Last Friday, 3News cameras spotted authorities from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and Willoughby Police Department taking several file boxes and a large plastic bag of unknown materials from Priola's Lake County house. Officials also searched the home's garage and vehicles before leaving the scene around 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Priola resigned from her position with the CMSD last Thursday. In her resignation letter, she cited her desire to switch career paths to focus on exposing human trafficking and pedophilia and not wanting to take a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to in-person school. The letter came only after social media users linked her to photos taken of a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump that stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding in an attempt to overturn the presidential election.

Priola filed her resignation, which includes the conspiratorial beliefs, Thursday to the Human Resources Department for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Occupational therapists in the district generally work with special needs students.

In her letter, Priola also said she did not support paying union dues that she claims are used to "fund people and groups that support the killing of unborn children."

Credit: Shared by CMSD

"Questions raised today about a former CMSD employee’s alleged involvement in the riots at the U.S. Capitol this week have also raised questions about the District’s position on such behaviors," district spokesperson Rosann Canfora said in an email Friday.

"While CMSD deeply believes in the right of any individual to peacefully protest, as many did on the Capitol plaza on Wednesday afternoon, the District deeply condemns the actions of those involved in the riots inside the Capitol and on the Capitol grounds. The right of peaceful protest, as protected by the first amendment, is a foundation of our democracy. The forcible takeover and willful destruction of our government is not."

The union released a statement from Cleveland Teachers Union President Shari Obrenski.

"The Cleveland Teachers Union strongly condemns the violent attack on our democratic institutions that occurred this week. Rioters who broke the law should be held fully accountable. Our national affiliate has called for the immediate removal of President Trump for instigating this assault on our country.

"We are aware of reports of Cleveland teachers who engaged in rioting in the Capitol. We take these allegations very seriously and if true, they must be held accountable.

"While we support the right to peaceful protest, what happened inside the Capitol on Wednesday was not a protest, it was an insurrection. It is the exact opposite of what we teach our students. Anyone who participated must bear the very serious consequences of their actions."

Editor's Note: The below video aired on January 8, 2021

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