Four Arrested at Embassy of Venezuela Appear in Court
WASHINGTON –Four individuals who were arrested and removed from the Embassy of Venezuela yesterday each made their initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today on federal charges stemming from trespassing and interfering with the U.S. Department of State’s protective functions, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.
An arrest warrant was issued on May 15, 2019, for Kevin Bruce Zeese, 64, Margaret Ann Flowers, 57, Adrienne Pine, 49, and David Vernon Paul, 70, who were located in the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. The individuals were arrested on a criminal complaint charging them with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 118, Interference with Protective Functions of the Department of State, for knowingly and willingly obstructing, resisting, or interfering with a Federal law enforcement agent engaged, within the United States, in the performance of the protective functions of the State Department Basic Authorities Act.
According to the complaint:
- On January 23, 2019, President Donald J. Trump officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the Interim President of Venezuela.
- On January 23, 2019, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo released an official press statement recognizing Juan Guaidó as the new interim President of Venezuela. The notification stated that Mr. Vecchio has authority to take actions on behalf of Venezuela.
- On January 24, 2019, interim President Juan Guaidó notified the United States Government that Mr. Carlos Alfredo Vecchio was accredited as Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Venezuela in the United States.
- The United States accepted interim President Juan Guaidó’s notification of accreditation of Mr. Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Government of Venezuela to the United States on January 25, 2019.
- On January 29, 2019, interim President Juan Guaidó sent a letter to President Trump appointing Mr. Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States of America.
Members of a group called Code Pink, individuals calling themselves the Embassy Protection Collective, and members of a group called the Popular Resistance began occupying the Venezuelan Embassy and the Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the Organization of American States on April 10, 2019.
On April 26, 2019, Venezuelan Ambassador Carlos Vecchio sent a diplomatic note to the U.S. Department of State, requesting the support of the Government of the United States for the Venezuelan Embassy’s efforts to take occupancy of the premises of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. In the diplomatic note, Ambassador Vecchio requested the assistance of U.S. law enforcement officials in the removal of any person on the premises of the Venezuelan Embassy who is not authorized by the Venezuelan government to be present.
On May 13, 2019, the Diplomatic Security Service read a trespass notice via loudspeaker and posted trespassing notices at the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. After the reading, the four defendants remained in the Embassy and refused to vacate the premises. The defendants’ refusals to leave the Embassy interfered with the Department of State’s protective function of maintaining the security of Venezuelan Embassy and the Permanent Mission of Venezuela to the Organization of American States.
At today’s hearing before Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey, the defendants were released on various conditions, and the next court date was set for June 12, 2019.
The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The statutory maximum penalty for a charge of Interference with Protective Functions of the Department of State is one year of incarceration. If convicted of any offense, each defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The investigation into this matter was conducted by the Diplomatic Security Service in cooperation with other law enforcement partners including the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division.
The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Danielle Rosborough.