‘Idk what treason is’: Univ. of Kentucky student federally charged for participation in Capitol riot

In footage from Capitol Police and provided to the FBI, Courtright (in the black and yellow hat) can be seen carrying a sign from the Capitol building during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo from the federal affidavit detailing Courtright’s charges.

Natalie Parks

Update on Jan. 19, 2021: Courtright had her first hearing in federal court in Charleston, West Virginia, according to the magistrate’s docket.

According to an affidavit filed in the District of Columbia, the FBI has found probable cause for an arrest warrant for University of Kentucky student Gracyn Courtright.

The FBi investigation revealed new evidence of Courtright participating in the riot on the Capitol, including surveillance footage showing her taking a sign.

The affidavit concludes Courtright, a native of West Virginia, violated four federal laws, including theft of government property.

Such an affidavit is filed for “limited purpose of establishing probable cause to support an application for an arrest warrant.” 

According to the case file listing, Courtright has not entered custody and a date has not yet been set for a hearing. All cases related to the mobbing of the Capitol are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Courtright, 23, entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 with other rioters as they took over the building during the election certification vote in support of President Donald Trump. 

Courtright, a senior mathematical economics major, posted her presence on social media, where it was quickly recorded and reported by other users.

Now, that online evidence has been used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to file an affidavit “in support of criminal complaint and arrest warrant.”

According to the court document, the FBI reviewed photos and videos of Courtright, confirming Courtright’s presence by comparing them to her West Virginia driver’s license. They also matched her apparel to a photo published by the Washington Post that was taken at the same time as her personal posts.

“Courtright can be identified by her unique hat with the yellow band, the surrounding people, flag, and building architecture (all of which can be seen in both this picture and her personally captured video),” the affidavit reads.

New evidence obtained by the FBI added to the charges Courtright is facing.

Footage provided to the FBI by Capitol police shows Courtright carrying a “Members Only” sign and making her way from the first to second floor.

The sign was later taken from her by a law enforcement officer.

The footage from Capitol police provided the FBI with a timeframe and physical record of Courtright’s actions in the building.

“Courtright was seen entering the Capitol building via a door near the West Senate Stairs at 14:42. This is the same hallway depicted in the photos and videos provided to law enforcement,” says the affidavit. “At 15:01 Courtright was seen on the second floor.”

The FBI also obtained direct messages between Courtright and an unnamed individual where Courtright admits to entering the Capitol.

“I walked into the Senate like in the chamber where the desk are” Courtright says, followed by “idk what treason is.”

Courtright says the mobbing wasn’t violent like the news said before saying “I never saw the violence I guess I was lucky.”

The witness then calls Courtright “embarrassing.” She responds with “It’s history idc” and then “I thought it was cool.”

Courtright also claims that all her friends “knew I was coming here.”

The federal complaint also cites a Kentucky Kernel article from Jan. 7 recounting how Courtright was identified on social media.

According to the affidavit, an FBI agent spoke to Courtright’s father and he confirmed her attendance in D.C. at “the party”, at the Capitol and in the crowd for Trump’s speech.

“Her father stated that she had recalled walking up a ramp prior to entering the Capitol and was able to walk in. The father concluded by stating that if his daughter was charged with a crime, he would assist in ensuring she turned herself in to authorities,” says the document.

An FBI agent traveled to West Virginia, where Courtright was staying with her father, to interview her, but the father said “he did not feel comfortable allowing Courtright to give a statement unless she was notified she would not get in trouble for her actions.”

The father, a lawyer, said Courtright would cooperate with law enforcement.

In the Instagram messages obtained by the FBI, Courtright says “I’m not embarrassed so you shouldn’t be.”

The affidavit concludes by saying that the affiant (the FBI agent filing the case) believes there is probable cause to charge Courtright for violating four laws: Title 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) and (2), 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(d), 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(G) and 18 U.S.C. § 641.

Those laws forbid, respectively, knowingly entering restricted grounds and with the intent to disrupt the orderly conduct of the government; engaging in disruptive or threatening language or conduct within the Capitol; parading, picketing or demonstrating in any Capitol grounds; and “knowingly converting to her use, or conveying, without authority, a thing of value of the United States.”

The charge for theft of government property can incur a fine of up to $1,000.

The affidavit – which constitutes charges – is signed by U.S. magistrate Zia Faruqui and dated Jan. 16, 2021, ten days after the riot. The affidavit itself does not serve as or necessitate an arrest warrant, which would come from a judge.

Courtright has not responded to the Kernel’s request for comment.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton reiterated that the university will not comment on an individual student’s disciplinary status, but that violations of federal, state and local law are prohibited by the Code of Student Conduct.

Following the initial identification of Courtright at the Capitol, a petition was signed to have her expelled from UK. Over 1,500 people had signed the petition as of 9:50 p.m. on Jan. 17.

Courtright faced significant backlash for her participation in the riots. The day after the Capitol was mobbed, she posted an Instagram story saying “Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more known. XOXO.” 

She has since deactivated both her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Read the full affidavit here: