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Huntington Beach man arrested by FBI on suspicion of participation in Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

FBI agents Thursday morning
FBI agents Thursday morning raided a unit at the Casa Monterrey Apartments in Huntington Beach and arrested Mark Steven Simon on suspicion of his involvement in the U.S. Capitol riot earlier this month.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A Huntington Beach man was arrested early Thursday morning after FBI agents connected him to social media posts and at least one video that placed him at the entryway of the U.S. Capitol building during the Jan. 6 riot, authorities said.

Mark Steven Simon faces federal charges of unlawful entry into a restricted building with the intent to disrupt government business and engaging, in unlawful activities on Capitol grounds.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller confirmed agents arrested Simon outside a Huntington Beach residence at 6 a.m. Thursday. He was being held in federal custody and was scheduled to appear in court in Santa Ana that afternoon.

According to an affidavit filed Jan. 21 with the U.S. District Court, authorities obtained information about a Jan. 10 post on the Orange Juice Blog — which describes itself as “The O.C.’s political mosh pit” — depicting images of a man and woman who had traveled to Washington, D.C. and participated in the demonstration outside the Capitol.

Five people were killed at the riot, while a Capitol police officer later committed suicide.

In the post, blog contributor Vern Nelson identifies the woman as Michelle Peterson, whom police have described as a “known activist” in Huntington Beach and who has been vocal in her efforts to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom.

With assistance from the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, agents confirmed the same images had previously appeared on Peterson’s own Facebook page, with the caption, “Peacefully Storming the Capitol…#StopTheSteal,” but had since been deleted, the affidavit stated.

The blog post also contained a video FBI agents believe Simon himself filmed from the east side of the Capitol building as he and others approached an entryway door. The video shows numerous people pushing their way inside the building as others exit.

“Law enforcement officers inside the U.S. Capitol could be seen attempting to remove individuals from the building,” an FBI special agent testified in the affidavit. “Once the individual taking the video was in the doorway threshold of the U.S. Capitol building, he turned the camera on himself and said, ‘In the Capitol baby, yeah!’”

Further on in the video, the man agents believe to be Simon shouts “2021 Donald Trump!”

Simon does not identify himself in the video, but representatives from the Huntington Beach Police Department were able to match the man and woman in the images on the blog to Simon and Peterson, the FBI special agent testified.

Agents with the FBI’s Operations Technology Division also conducted a biometric search and were able to match Simon’s driver’s license photo with the photos and images from the video allegedly taken on Jan. 6.

“Both a computer algorithm and a trained forensic examiner confirmed a match between the photo and the male in the above-referenced video,” the special agent stated in the affidavit.

FBI agents executed a search warrant at Simon’s Huntington Beach apartment, at which point he was taken into custody, Eimiller confirmed Thursday. Carl Basile, a resident of Casa Monterrey on Warner Avenue, said he saw several unmarked cars and at least one person who appeared to be removing material from the property.

“There were a bunch of people in FBI jackets and some were police,” said Basile, who’d gone out for a run at around 7 a.m. and returned an hour later. “When I got back, I saw one FBI person carrying a box.”

The Los Angeles Times reports Simon, 49, was featured in a story in the far-right newspaper Epoch Times after the Jan. 6 breach at the Capitol, in which he was quoted saying he attended the rally in support of President Trump and to ensure a free and fair election.

Simon described police pushing back against protesters at the Capitol doors to keep them out, adding that “very minor destruction” took place considering the number of people in attendance.

“The worst I saw there was a couple patriots on top of some type of government vehicle — on the roof. That was about it. There was no damage to the vehicle,” Simon told the Epoch Times.

Thursday’s arrest makes Simon one of nearly 150 individuals who have been charged in federal court related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. .6, according to a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Three Beverly Hills residents were arrested earlier this month and are facing a series of charges ranging from civil disorder to violent entry to obstruction of an official proceeding.

Among them was Dr. Simone Gold, who shared her anti-mask views during a June 24 community forum convened by members of the Orange County Board of Education. Following the forum, the board commissioned a white paper recommending public schools reopen without facial coverings.

A Los Angeles-area emergency physician, Gold said wearing a mask to protect against the coronavirus was like “wearing a chain link fence to keep out a mosquito.”

“It is, therefore, up to you with the consent and advice and pressure of the parents to do what’s in the best interest of our children,” she said.

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