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Rhode Island man arrested in connection with Jan. 6 Capitol attack, authorities say

Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump riot outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021.John Minchillo/Associated Press

A Rhode Island man was arrested Wednesday on federal charges related to his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol, according to the FBI.

William B. Cotton, 53, of Hopkinton, R.I., is the 18th New England resident arrested in connection with the attack. He is charged in federal court in Washington, D.C., with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, the FBI said.

It wasn’t immediately clear when Cotton will make his initial appearance in a courtroom to face the charges. No lawyer was listed for Cotton in court filings.


An affidavit filed in the case said someone who knows Cotton told the FBI in December that they recognized him in footage from the riot. The footage showed Cotton moving and standing in a crowd in the general area of the Senate Wing of the Capitol.

“In these stills and the photograph, Cotton appears to be wearing a grey long sleeve shirt with ‘Bryant University’ in yellow and white lettering, blue jeans, and glasses attached to a black eyewear retainer around his neck,” the affidavit said.

Shortly before he entered the Capitol, Cotton was captured on video standing with a large group of rioters on the grounds of the West Terrace, and he proceeded into the building behind a group that had just breached the entrance, the affidavit said.

Additional footage showed Cotton chanting “traitor” inside the Capitol. Authorities also used cell tower location data and license plate readers to track Cotton’s movements between Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, the affidavit said.

“These cell site hits within this timeframe are consistent with the user of the cell phone traveling south through New Jersey to Washington, D.C., then back to New England from Washington, D.C., at or near the conclusion of the insurrection,” the affidavit said.


On Friday, Sue Ianni, 60, of Natick, was sentenced to 15 days behind bars for entering the Capitol during the insurrection.

The attack erupted after Donald Trump, in the waning days of his presidency, gave a fiery speech urging his supporters to “fight like hell” and march on the Capitol.

The rioters were seeking to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory by Congress. Lawmakers were hurriedly whisked away to an undisclosed location during the tumult and returned later that night to certify Biden’s win.

Five people died in the attack or in its immediate aftermath, and scores more were injured, including at least 140 members of law enforcement who were harassed, beaten, and sprayed with gas substances.

Federal authorities have arrested hundreds of people in connection with the probe.

In addition, a Jan. 6 congressional committee has held several public hearings and is expected to release a final report on its findings soon.

The committee’s chairman, US Representative Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, told reporters Tuesday that the panel will provide the Justice Department with evidence that certain people, possibly including Trump, committed federal crimes in trying to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election.

Trump is seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.