Citadel student charged in Jan. 6 Capitol riot asks judge to approve 3-week trip to Europe

FBI court documents state this image shows Elias Irizarry at the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. Irizarry faces three charges in connection with the incident.(FBI)

John Monk and Andrew Dys

The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Apr. 27—COLUMBIA, S.C. — A student at South Carolina’s military college who faces criminal charges in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol is requesting permission to travel to Estonia for a three-week summer school trip that would include visits to U.S. and NATO government installations.

A lawyer for Elias Irizarry, 20, a sophomore at The Citadel who is from York County, has filed a motion in federal court asking U.S. Judge Tanya Chutkan to allow Irizarry to travel to Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, for a three-week program focusing on cybersecurity in the Baltic region and the Baltic states’ relationship to Russia.

Irizarry applied for and was accepted into the program this spring, and The Citadel is giving Irizarry a $2,500 scholarship to go on the program, according to court documents. The award is coming through the school’s Humanities and Social Sciences department. Irizarry’s proposed summer program includes visits to the U.S. Embassy and a NATO Cybersecurity Center, according to court documents.

The summer school is from July 10-31.

” Mr. Irizarry will be required to follow strict rules that apply to all Citadel students,” Irizarry’s motion said.

Irizarry’s lawyer Eugene Ohm, a federal public defender in Washington, declined to comment Tuesday.

“I believe the motion speaks for itself,” Ohm said.

Citadel student seeks permission to study abroad

Meanwhile, Irizarry has a court date scheduled for June 1 before Chutkan at which he could decide whether to plead guilty to one or more of the charges against him in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He was arrested in March of last year.

Irizarry is one of 11 South Carolinians who were charged with joining the Capitol riot.

The charges against Irizarry include disrupting official government business at the Capitol and intending to disrupt a session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, as Congress was meeting to certify President Biden’s electoral vote count in the 2020 election. The rioters stormed the Capitol during the nation’s 200-plus year tradition of peaceful transfer of power, and forced members of Congress to flee. Some 140 police officers were injured.

Earlier this week, Irizarry’s friend, Elliot Bishai, pleaded guilty to entering the Capitol as part of a mob that went through a broken window, shouting “Civil War 2” with Irizarry next to him. Prosecutors allowed Bishai to plead guilty to reduced charges that included entering a restricted area in the Capitol.

Prosecutors offered Bishai and Irizarry plea deals last December.

Bishai accepted, but Irizarry’s non-acceptance is allowing him to finish out his sophomore year at The Citadel.

Prosecutors said that once Bishai and Irizarry entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, the two went into the Rotunda, climbed on statues and took selfies. Neither Bishai nor Irizarry committed any vandalism or fought with officers. Prosecutors and federal judges have said that though some rioters were not violent, they provided cover for other rioters who fought with police, stole government property and trashed offices.

During the riot, Irizarry wore combat boots, a “Make America Great Again” hat and carried a metal pipe, according to court documents.

In a new court document filed with Irizarry’s request to go abroad, it said that Citadel officials in charge of international programs have approved him to participate in the program, which is part of the college’s study abroad activities.

The document, written by Irizarry’s lawyer, Ohm, also cites a number of Irizarry’s academic achievements. They include being a dean’s list student, with a 3.79 GPA and a member of the national political science honor society.

A political science major with a focus on military and international affairs, Irizarry is vice president of the Citadel Russian-Area Studies Club and has earned a scholarship to go to a private pilot school. He is first-aid certified, and performed community service at a Veterans Administration Hospital and a local elementary school.

Irizarry is a graduate of Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill. In high school, Irizarry was a member of the Marine Corps JROTC and the Gastonia, North Carolina, Civil Air Patrol unit.

Federal prosecutor Grace Atkinson filed a motion Tuesday, saying the U.S. Attorney’s office does not oppose Irizarry’s request to travel to Estonia, a NATO member nation of 1.3 million, located in northern Europe on the Baltic Sea. It shares a common border with Russia.

Citing privacy concerns, Citadel officials declined to comment on the school’s financing Irizarry’s participation in a program that allows him to visit sensitive government installations.

Chutkan already granted Irizarry permission to go on one trip abroad, to Germany with family for Christmas.

Anyone charged with federal crimes must turn in their passports and get permission from a judge to leave the country.

Michael Gordon with McClatchy’s Charlotte Observer contributed to this story.


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