Maryland elections board member resigns after indictment for participating in US Capitol rioting

Capitol Riot, Jan. 6th, 2021  (Photo from The Associated Presss)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Republican member of the Maryland State Board of Elections has resigned after being arrested by the FBI this week on felony and misdemeanor charges for participating in rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Carlos Ayala was arrested on Tuesday in Maryland, according to court records. He was charged with civil disorder, a felony, and related misdemeanor charges and released on personal recognizance.

Michael Summers, the chair of the state elections board, said in a statement Thursday he has accepted Ayala’s immediate resignation.

James Trusty, a lawyer representing Ayala, declined to comment.

Ayala, of Salisbury, Maryland, was appointed to the board two years after the riot in 2023 by Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat. Ayala was recommended to the governor by the Maryland Republican Party. He was confirmed by the Maryland Senate after the chamber rejected the previous nomination of another potential appointee.

Senate President Bill Ferguson described the arrest as “incredibly surprising and distressing.” The Baltimore Democrat said when he spoke to Ayala during the confirmation process “he certainly didn’t seem like someone that would have participated in such activities.”

“When democracy is under threat, we can’t make any assumptions,” Ferguson said. “Nothing is predetermined.”

Nicole Beus Harris, the chair of the Maryland Republican Party, said in a statement that the party “believes in the 1st Amendment and in the American principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.”

“That said, Mr. Ayala did choose to resign because he believes that the 2024 elections process and the State Board of Elections is extremely important and should not be muddied with distraction,” said Harris, who is the wife of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s lone Republican representative.

The board, which ensures compliance with Maryland and federal election laws, is comprised of five members who serve four-year terms. They represent both major political parties — three of the majority and two of the minority.

State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican, introduced Ayala at a Maryland Senate hearing in March 2023 as “a very well-respected business and community leader.” She said Ayala has held key roles with Perdue Farms, including director of international operations, general manager of Perdue China and also vice president international for all of Perdue.

Ayala told the panel of senators he would be honored to serve, “ensuring that people have fair and equal access to polls — super important.”

Ayala, 52, allegedly was identified among a group of rioters illegally gathered on restricted Capitol grounds near scaffolding erected for the inauguration, according to court records. He allegedly wore a sweatshirt hood, and he carried a black and white flag affixed to a PVC pipe flagpole bearing the words “We the People” and “DEFEND.” Featured prominently on the flag was an image of an M-16-style rifle.

Ayala is seen on video footage climbing over police barricades and making his way to the Upper West Terrace of the Capitol as rioters overran the police lines on the stairs adjacent to the scaffolding, according to a news release from federal prosecutors. Ayala then moved toward the front of the crowd gathered outside the Senate wing door of the Capitol, the release said.

Closed-circuit television footage from inside the U.S. Capitol, near the Senate wing door, shows Ayala waving his flag inside one of the windows next to the door. A U.S. Capitol Police officer then motioned Ayala away from the window.

Authorities say Ayala then moved toward a door, which had been previously breached by rioters and where officers had erected a barricade.

Video footage shows a rioter in the same area where Ayala was present, jabbing a flag and flagpole at an officer, who proceeded to grab the flagpole and pull the flag into the building to prevent the rioter from knocking the officer’s shield away or injuring other officers, the news release said.

The flag matched the description of Ayala’s flag, which he was holding moments before, according to court records.

Less than 30 seconds after the altercation during which the officer pulled Ayala’s flag into the building, the Senate wing door was breached by rioters and pulled open, court records say. Within seconds of rioters opening the door, a PVC pipe with no flag attached was thrown through the open door, striking at least one officer.

Body-worn camera footage from approximately 2:51 p.m. shows that Ayala paced in front of officers who had assembled on the Upper West Terrace to clear rioters from the area, according to the news release. Ayala walked the length of the police line, gestured at the officers and said, “Join us!”

More than 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 900 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trials decided by a jury or judge. Over 750 of them have been sentenced, with nearly 500 receiving some term of imprisonment, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

By Brian Witte, The Associated Press


Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report from Silver Spring, Maryland.