Lakeland woman bragged on social media, FBI says



Social media posts main factor in Montoni’s arrest

Gary White
 
| The Ledger

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Social media postings led to the arrest of Lakeland resident Corinne Lee Montoni for allegedly taking part in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, as has been the case for many arrested in connection with the insurrection.

An affidavit submitted by an FBI agent includes a wealth of detail in Montoni’s own words, photos and videos suggesting she joined the invasion of the Capitol as part of an effort to disrupt certification of President Joe Biden’s election. FBI agents arrested Montoni on Tuesday at her South Lakeland home and charged her with four crimes related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Montoni, 31, appeared Tuesday before a federal judge in Tampa. She is scheduled to have a video hearing Monday with a judge in Washington, D.C. Montoni is the first person from Polk County known to have been arrested for participating in the incursion that left five dead, including a police officer.

Her charges include obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly conduct for parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, and aiding and abetting the commission of those offenses.

Previously: Lakeland woman arrested, facing charges after U.S. Capitol attack

Montoni was released on a $25,000 bail and required to surrender her passport and firearms, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said.

Timothy D. Taylor, a special agent for FBI, prepared the 26-page affidavit, which he submitted Monday to U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey seeking the arrest warrant carried out early the next morning.

Taylor’s affidavit is filled with evidence taken from Montoni’s Facebook, Instagram and Parler accounts documenting her presence inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. The packet includes a selfie photo Montoni took that day and another photo, an overhead shot of a hallway provided by U.S. Capitol Police, showing a woman Taylor identifies as Montoni among the mob inside the building. A red arrow added to the image points to the woman, who wears a gray hoodie and holds a phone near her face.

The report says that Montoni flew from Tampa to Washington, D.C., and stayed in a hotel before the rally for former President Donald Trump that preceded the riot. The affidavit extensively quotes Montoni describing her plans to travel to Washington and her determination to help block certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

According to Taylor, Montoni posted Dec. 16 on Parler: “Insurrection Act coming in hot … void the fraudulent 2020 election, arrest these traitors and restore order and faith in our justice department. GitMo is readyyyyyy.”

In case you missed it: PCSO: Polk deputy arrested, accused of making written threats related to U.S. Capitol riot

That was a reference to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where suspected terrorists are held.

The packet also quotes Montoni from a video that Taylor says she posted showing her inside the Capitol during the riot. She says, “We’re in the Capitol ‘cause this is our house. We paid for this, and they’re trying to steal it from us. Let’s go!”

Facebook comments led FBI to open investigation

The FBI began investigating Montoni after receiving an online tip the day after the insurrection. The agency eventually talked to three people, none of them named in the affidavit, who identified Montoni as taking part based on her social media posts.

The first tip came from someone who reported seeing Facebook comments on Jan. 6 from another person saying that Montoni entered the Capitol that day. The witness, who did not know Montoni, then found her Facebook page and saw videos of a woman who appeared to be Montoni inside the building as the riot took place.

Taylor wrote that he verified that the video, as well as other videos and photos, did show Montoni, based on a comparison with her driver’s license photo. The informant said Montoni had written about her plans to return to Washington on Jan. 20, the day of the presidential inauguration.

The affidavit reported that Montoni deleted her Facebook account within days of the insurrection.

Related: Publix heiress paid for Trump rally preceding Capitol riots, WSJ reports

A second informant also submitted an online tip on Jan. 7, Taylor wrote. That person, identified as a close acquaintance of Montoni’s, said she had told family members of her plans to travel to Washington for the rally.

The second informant also reported that Montoni called a relative after returning to her hotel to describe taking part in the riot. That relative then called the second informant and shared details of the conversation, Taylor reported.

The friend found Montoni’s posts about the insurrection on Facebook. When the informant later tried to access that content in the presence of FBI agents, they found that Montoni had blocked them, the report said. The friend then called Montoni but got no answer.

Taylor reported interviewing a third informant on Jan. 8. The person, identified as a Facebook friend of Montoni’s, said they had viewed her Facebook timeline on Jan. 6 and saw videos taken from inside the Capitol. Though the videos didn’t show Montoni, the informant recognized her voice in the narration, the affidavit said.

In a follow-up interview, the third informant reported seeing videos on Facebook that showed Montoni inside the Capitol.

‘If Pence betrays us, we riot’

Taylor wrote that he used open searches of social media and found records “through legal process.” In the affidavit, he quoted Montoni expressing anger over what she considered an unfair election. She echoed false claims Trump repeatedly made that the election was “stolen” in the months before the Jan. 6 rally.

In a private Facebook chat on Dec. 13, Montoni wrote, “We’re booking our s— for inauguration dude January 20th. … We are not letting Biden steal this s—.”

Taylor reported that Montoni used the word “revolution” more than once in posts and chats to describe what she expected to happen on Jan. 6.

In a Dec. 20 conversation on Facebook, Taylor reported that Montoni discussed her plans to travel to Washington. When the other person lamented not being able to afford such a trip, Montoni offered to pay their way as a Christmas gift.

In another conversation on Dec. 25, Montoni said she expected Jan. 6 to be a “Trump victory party.” The other person responded, “Or we’re going to f—— WAARRRRR party,” and Montoni concurred, according to the affidavit.

In other postings, Montoni projected the false belief that former Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to block certification of Biden’s election. Though Trump made the same claim, Pence had only a ceremonial role in overseeing the ratification of each state’s Electoral College vote totals.

On Dec. 28, Taylor wrote, Montoni posted on Parler, “If Pence betrays us, we riot.”

The next day, she posted, “January 6th in DC is going to be YUGEEEE! It’s either going to be a Trump victory party or the first real day of the revolution. Who’s going?”

Taylor’s report includes photos that he says depict Montoni in the Capitol on Jan. 6. One, apparently a selfie, shows her wearing a gray hoodie with “TRUMP” written on it.

The affidavit also mentions a video posted on Montoni’s Parler account on Jan. 6. Taylor reported that it shows a large group of protesters jammed inside a hallway of the Capitol and apparently pushing against a line of police officers. As some scream “Push,” Montoni can be heard shouting, “We paid for this!” the report said.

The affidavit cites many other examples of Montoni’s social media posts from Jan. 6.

“We tried going to the courts,” one post said. “We tried showing evidence. We tried the nice and legal way butt when corruption runs so deep for so long, that doesn’t work. … Today we showed them how done we are. The Capitol building belongs to US, we the people. This is our house. … We broke a few windows, sure but we were a peaceful protest occupying the people’s property.”

The affidavit said Montoni posted a photo from the riot with the caption, “Here’s a pretty little view from inside the Capitol at our traitor DC police, with a smashed window. Congratulations to them, they got both sides to hate them.”

In a private Facebook chat on Jan. 7, Taylor reported, Montoni said that her intention had been to abduct or arrest members of Congress or Pence.

“I was screaming at the Capitol … We want pence first,” she wrote.

Montoni described her participation in the riot as “awesome” and “intense,” Taylor reported, though she also said she had been hit with pepper spray. Police officers inside and outside the Capitol reportedly used the spray against some rioters.

Montoni responds to conspiracy theory

Soon after the Capitol attack, some Republican politicians and Trump supporters began spreading a conspiracy theory that the incursion had been carried out by leftists and not followers of the former president. Montoni rejected that idea in one of her posts, according to Taylor.

“I was there,” she wrote to another Parler member. “We were 99% MAGA. I didn’t see one ANTIFA. And I was inside the Capitol.”

Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a label for a loose collection of far-left groups.

The report quotes a private chat from Jan. 6 in which another person asked Montoni if she “broke into the Capitol or entered peacefully.”

“Obv(iously) broke in because it was locked,” Montoni replied. “They had to breach the gates first.”

Some of the posts quoted in the report contrasted the actions of Trump supporters on Jan. 6 with racial justice protests that followed George Floyd’s death last year, some of which turned violent.

The day after the insurrection, Taylor reported, Montoni wrote on Parler, “If you have a problem with American citizens occupying a building WE OWN, but not a problem with the massive voter fraud and stolen election, you are the enemy.”

Two days later, according to the affidavit, Montoni complained that some people had no problem with the actions of Black Lives Matter or Antifa “but we want to occupy our own building and take the traitors into custody and it’s a problem.”

In a private Facebook on Jan. 7, Taylor reported, Montoni addressed the possibility of facing criminal charges for her actions.

“Now people are like. You’re going to jail,” she wrote. “Ok so they’re gonna arrest the 1000 people that went in. … Ok.”

The affidavit says that Montoni told friends she had many more videos from Jan. 6 that she planned to post. But she didn’t do so and soon deleted all of her social media accounts, Taylor wrote.

The Ledger found a Facebook page for Montoni on Tuesday, following the disclosure of her arrest, but it contained no posts related to the Capitol attack. The page was disabled by Wednesday.

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.



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