NEW YORK — Draped head-to-toe in fur pelts, a bulletproof vest strapped to his torso, the son of a Brooklyn judge wandered the halls of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, stopping amid the melee to give an interview while clutching a riot shield.
“We were cheated,” he told The New York Post, parroting President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. “I don’t think 75 million people voted for Trump — I think it was close to 85 million.”
On Tuesday, the man, Aaron Mostofsky, was arrested on federal charges, part of a national search by law enforcement officials to identify members of the mob that had forced its way into the Capitol. Another man, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee, was also arrested Tuesday in White Plains, New York.
Mostofsky, 34, is the son of Kings County Supreme Court Judge Steven Mostofsky, who also goes by Shlomo. He and his father are registered Democrats, according to New York state election records.
Aaron Mostofsky was taken into custody by FBI agents at his brother’s home in Brooklyn, according to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
In a video posted on Twitter, FBI agents can be seen carrying what appear to be pelts out of Mostofsky’s home, also in Brooklyn, on Tuesday morning. A court filing showed that he had sent a message to a friend on the day of the riot: “If we find each other,” Mostofsky wrote, “look for a guy looking like a caveman.”
Jeffrey T. Schwartz, a lawyer for Mostofsky, said at a court hearing Tuesday that the evidence would show Mostofsky was “not part of the mob.”
“He was not rampaging,” Schwartz said. “He understands how the whole thing in Washington got totally out of hand.”
A spokesman for Mostofsky’s father declined to comment.
The most serious charge that Mostofsky faces is stealing government property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The criminal complaint said the police vest he wore, which included body plates and side ballistics, had a value of $1,905. The riot shield, it said, is valued at $256.
He faces three other charges, including illegal entry into a restricted area and disorderly conduct. He spoke at a court appearance in Brooklyn conducted by phone Tuesday afternoon, although the case is being handled by federal prosecutors in Washington.
Prosecutors said they were “deeply troubled” by the allegations against Mostofsky but consented to his release from custody on a $100,000 bond. He is prohibited from participating in any political rallies or traveling to any state capitals, which have been on high alert for spillover violence ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Later Tuesday, in another case in the New York City area connected to the Capitol riots, FBI agents arrested William Pepe, a city transit employee, in a bank parking lot in White Plains, a law enforcement official said.
Pepe, who called in sick to travel to Washington last Wednesday, had been suspended without pay last week from his job as a Metro-North railroad laborer, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges against Pepe had not yet been announced.
Pepe, 31, faces unlawful entry and disorderly conduct charges, another law enforcement official with knowledge of the case said, and was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
The MTA is cooperating with federal law enforcement agencies. The authority’s spokesperson said in a statement announcing Pepe’s suspension that “those who attacked that symbol of American democracy disqualified themselves from working for the people of New York.”
Mostofsky and Pepe are among the more than 70 people who have been charged by federal and local authorities in the days since the riot. The Justice Department and the FBI are pursuing at least 170 suspects for potential prosecution, officials said Tuesday, sifting through 100,000 tips after asking for the public’s help in identifying those who forced their way into the Capitol.
On Nov. 7, the day the presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Aaron Mostofsky wrote a comment on Facebook, asking “when and where are we protesting/rioting,” according to the criminal complaint against him.
Two months later, on the morning of the riot, Mostofsky posted a video on Instagram, labeled “DC bound stopthesteal,” that appeared to show him on a bus to Washington, the criminal complaint said. The term “stop the steal” is popular among Trump supporters attempting to delegitimize the outcome of the election.
After Mostofsky’s interview with The Post went viral, a friend told him in a message that he was famous. Mostofsky replied that it was unfortunate, saying: “Cause now people actually know me,” according to the criminal complaint.
In an interview last week with Gothamist, Mostofsky’s older brother, Neil Mostofsky, who also goes by Nachman, said his brother was “pushed inside” the building and “did nothing illegal.”
Neil Mostofsky told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he had also attended the protests in Washington but left before the storming of the Capitol building. When reached by The New York Times on Tuesday, he answered the phone and then hung up. He is the executive director of Chovevei Zion, a politically conservative Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization.
At the court hearing, Neil Mostofsky agreed to allow his brother to move in with him, effectively acting as a custodian who is required to report any violations by his brother to the court.
Neil Mostofsky said he and his brother were “extremely close,” noting that their mother had died when they were young.