“We’re in! We’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol.”
And with that, West Virginia House of Delegates member Derrick Evans announced to the world via cell phone livestream video on social media that he was part of the mob that broke in to the United States Capitol Wednesday.
Two days later, the Justice Department announced Evans faces federal charges of entering a restricted area.
Evans, a Republican, was just elected to the House of Delegates from Wayne County in November and sworn in December 14. However, his stay in the Legislature may be brief. House leaders are discussing the possibility of expelling him.
One option is Rule 30, which states: “The House of Delegates may punish its own members for disorderly behavior.” That would require a two-thirds vote of the House, where Republicans hold 77 of the 100 seats.
Another possibility is the use of Article VI, Section 24 of the state Constitution which states that members of the Legislature can judge the “qualifications of its own members.” That seems like a more difficult route, even though it would require the vote of a simple majority rather than two-thirds.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw issued a statement late Wednesday condemning the assault on the Capitol, but he was cryptic about what action the House might take against Evans.
“I don’t know the specifics of his involvement,” Hanshaw said. “I have only seen what has been posted on social media so far, and I’m sure more details may come out soon. He will need to answer to his constituents and colleagues regarding his involvement in what has occurred today.”
Those who broke in to the Capitol may face any number of charges: Unlawful entry, destruction of property, assault, rioting, weapons-related charges. Federal prosecutors might also choose to level the more serious allegation of seditious conspiracy, if it can be determined the intent was to “put down or destroy by force the government of the United States.”
For his part, Evans said in a Facebook post that he was there as “an independent member of the media to film history” and that he had no bad intent.
“I want to assure you all that I did not have any negative interactions with law enforcement, nor did I participate in any destruction that may have occurred,” he said. He can be heard on his video discouraging intruders from vandalizing.
Evans’ justification is cold comfort. Being respectful to the overwhelmed police and not breaking anything does not absolve him of the egregious and illegal act of storming the seat of government and upending the peaceful transfer of power.
His actions also caused a major embarrassment for our state. National media picked up the story of a “West Virginia Legislator” who joined the mob.
The West Virginia Legislature is set to convene next Wednesday in Charleston. Normally, the body would deal with a few procedural matters and recess until February. However, the House should add on that first day a resolution calling for Evans’ expulsion.
Evans brought this on himself with his unacceptable actions highlighted on his incriminating “We’re in!” video post. The full House, Republicans and Democrats, should now say to Evans, “You’re out!”