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Largo woman smoked in Capitol during riot. Now she, husband face charges.

Marilyn and Thomas Fassell turned themselves in Wednesday. “This is a joke if you ask me,” the wife said of their arrests.
Marilyn Fassell, of Largo, took a selfie smoking a cigarette in the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to federal court records. The photo and its corresponding GPS coordinates were included in a complaint filed Sept. 9.
Marilyn Fassell, of Largo, took a selfie smoking a cigarette in the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to federal court records. The photo and its corresponding GPS coordinates were included in a complaint filed Sept. 9. [ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ]
Published Sep. 17
Updated Sep. 17

TAMPA — A Largo couple was arrested this week on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

According to federal court records, Marilyn and Thomas Fassell were part of a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol in the wake of the November 2020 election. Surveillance footage and photos — including a selfie of Marilyn Fassell, 58, smoking a cigarette — confirm they were inside for about 40 minutes, a federal agent wrote in a complaint filed Sept. 9 that was unsealed Thursday.

They each face four charges: entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building.

“This is a joke if you ask me,” Marilyn Fassell told the Tampa Bay Times.

Both she and her husband said they didn’t think going into the building was illegal because they were invited inside by a man they believe was a Capitol police officer. Thomas Fassell, 67, said the man was wearing black slacks and a black uniform shirt that matched what other officers were wearing.

Theirs was not the first report that police officers had helped rioters. A month after the siege, Capitol police officials announced they were investigating dozens of their own, some of whom were captured on video escorting rioters in to the building.

Tom Fassell, who said he is a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran and a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, added that neither he nor his wife engaged in any disorderly conduct, other than his wife smoking the cigarette. They both believe the insurrection was a setup by antifa, a left-wing group of anti-fascists activists, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

There is no evidence that is the case, and federal agents have repeatedly debunked the claim. The Fassells, like many that day, said they traveled to Washington because they believed that election fraud had caused Trump’s defeat in the November 2020 election, a claim that also has no factual basis. The siege happened as Congress was preparing to certify the Electoral College results, sending senators and representatives, including Pelosi, fleeing for safety.

Related: Politifact: There’s no proof antifa stormed the Capitol. Rumor spread quickly

An online tip led the FBI to the Fassells, according to the complaint. A woman told a federal agent that on Jan. 10, her co-worker, Thomas Fassell, bragged about and showed videos of he and his wife inside the Capitol during the insurrection.

Thomas Fassell said Friday that he wasn’t bragging. Rather, he said, he wanted to show off how beautiful the inside of the Capitol was. He and his wife had never been there before. The Fassells also emphasized they were cooperating with authorities.

“We’re law-abiding people,” said Marilyn Fassell, adding that she is a home health aide who works with elderly patients. “So, I have a heart. I just don’t want communism to come to our country.”

Screenshots of surveillance video footage that appears to show Marilyn Fassell, of Largo, inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. The screenshots were included in a federal complaint outlining her and her husband's involvement.
Screenshots of surveillance video footage that appears to show Marilyn Fassell, of Largo, inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. The screenshots were included in a federal complaint outlining her and her husband's involvement. [ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ]

Federal agents on Jan. 22 interviewed the Fassells at their home in Largo. Marilyn Fassell told the agents she and her husband went in through the front doors, which were partially broken, and that they didn’t know it was illegal to go inside. The summary of the interview included in the complaint doesn’t mention the detail that a police officer invited them inside, but Marilyn Fassell said they did tell the agent about it.

The complaint cites several videos that agents found on Thomas Fassell’s phone. In one, Marilyn Fassell can be heard saying, “We busted in the Capitol.” In another, she said, “This is my house, we pay taxes for this” and “We pay their salary.”

The Fassells turned themselves into authorities Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Tampa, Thomas Fassell said. Their first appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday. They are two of more than 600 people who have been charged in the events of Jan. 6.

Capitol and Washington D.C. police are planning for another protest organized by Trump allies scheduled for this weekend. It’s aimed at supporting those jailed on charges stemming from the Capitol siege.

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Tampa Bay Times U.S. Capitol coverage

REACTING TO RESPONSE : Did race play a role in police treatment of the U.S. Capitol mob?

CALL TO ACTION: Charlie Crist: Remove Donald Trump from office by invoking 25th Amendment

25TH AMENDMENT: When can it be used against a president?

EDITORIAL: The ugly spectacle perfectly captured the Trump-era GOP.

CLASSROOM TOPICS: Tampa Bay teachers, parents brace for tough conversations after U.S. Capitol siege

POLITIFACT FACT-CHECKS THE SIEGE: Here’s a look at the day’s short session, and the chaos that interrupted it.

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