Valley congressman reflects on US Capitol riot, status of charges against 2 Valley natives

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Exactly one year ago rioters stormed the US Capitol as members of congress sheltered in place.

Since then, two Central Valley residents have been charged with allegedly taking part in the break-in.

“A year ago today, of the 18 years I have had the honor and privilege to serve the people of our Valley and our nation, was the saddest day,” US Congressman Jim Costa, who was in the Capitol when the riot happened.

A photo was taken of Costa as he sheltered in place. The look on his face told the story of the moment he and other members of congress feared for their safety as they heard a mob and gunshots.

“It seemed surreal for 40 minutes, to hear tear gas going off and to hear this angry mob pounding on the doors of the house chambers, attempting to break in as they had in the senate chambers,” said Costa.

In the months to follow, two Valley residents were arrested for charges regarding the riot.

Activist Benjamin Martin, who made headlines for clashing with local politicians and speaking out against mask mandates, was arrested at his Madera home for six felony charges.

According to court documents Martin, pictured in a red “keep America great” hat, yelled and struggled with officers at one of the capitol doors, was sprayed by officers with pepper spray and then broke into the Capitol with the rioters.

Court records say Martin interviewed with the FBI and told them he was trying to de-escalate the situation and did not intend on ending up inside. Roger Nuttall represents Martin. The attorney declined to go on camera but sent the statement below to our station.

“I don’t see this whole matter as an insurrection and I don’t see that Benjamin Martin, in reality, is guilty of any crime.”

Ricky Willden of Oakhurst was also arrested and charged with six felonies. Court documents do not get into the specifics of his involvement in the riot. We reached out to his attorney and have not heard back.

Martin and Willden are both expected to be back in court in February and trial dates have not been set.

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