Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, testified Tuesday to the congressional committee investigating the attack. Ayres pleaded guilty last month to charges related to his actions on Jan. 6 as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors.
In his testimony, Ayres stated that he was not a part of any extremist group, but a “family man and a working man” who was taken in by former President Trump. “Family is my life,” he told the committee.
Following Trump on social media led Ayres down the path to entering the Capitol building on Jan. 6, he testified. “I was pretty hardcore into the social media,” Ayres said. “I followed President Trump on all of the websites. He basically put out, ‘Come to the Stop the Steal rally’ and I felt like I needed to be down here.”
Ayres said he believed all of Trump’s lies about how the election was rigged and stolen. His initial plans in the nation’s capital were to attend the rally at the Ellipse ahead of the electoral vote count at the Capitol. But his plan changed during Trump’s speech. “The president got everybody riled up and told everybody to head [to the Capitol],” Ayres said. “So we basically were just following what he said. I think everybody thought he was going to be coming [to the Capitol]. He said in his speech that he was going to be there with us. I believed it.”
After heading to the Capitol at Trump’s urging, Ayres faced federal criminal charges, lost his job, and had to sell his home, he told the committee.
According to a charging document filed by federal prosecutors, a member of Ayres’ family tipped off investigators to his involvement in the assault on the Capitol. Prosecutors alleged that Ayres posted his activities on Jan. 6 to Facebook later that same day. In a video viewed by federal investigators, Ayres, alongside two other people, identified himself by name and described his actions inside the building. “Ayres stated that the ‘fake news’ would not accurately report on what happened at the Capitol but that they had ‘seen it all’ and they ‘got footage all over the place on the Capitol,’” prosecutors alleged.
In an affidavit, prosecutors claimed that on Jan. 2, 2021, Ayres called on others to join in what he said would be a historic moment. “History is being made right in front of your eyes!” Ayres allegedly wrote on Facebook. “When your grandchildren ask ‘Where were you when………..happened?’ What’s your answer going to be?”
Ayres now realizes that Trump’s accusations about the rigging and stealing of the presidential election are false, especially given the fact that all his attempts to challenge the result failed in court, he told the committee. “I felt like I had horse blinders on, I was locked in the whole time,” Ayres said. “The biggest thing for me is to take the blinders off, make sure you step back and see what is going on before it is too late.”
As he was leaving the hearing, Ayres apologized to each member of the Capitol Police who attended Thursday’s hearing for his actions on Jan. 6.