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Virginia Beach brothers arrested for Capitol riot charges

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Posted at 11:51 AM, Mar 26, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Two men were arrested on March 24 in Chesapeake on charges stemming from the Capitol riot that took place on January 6.

Eric Von Bernewitz and Paul Von Bernewitz were arrest by FBI agents after they got a tip in January identifying individuals that were allegedly inside the Capitol at the time of the incidents.

Court documents said the tipster (Witness 1) provided screenshots of Facebook posts from Witness 2, a female who claimed her brother was inside the Capitol Building on January 6. Witness 1 told officials that Witness 2 posted on Facebook saying she was in touch with her brother through FaceTime while the brother was inside the Capitol.

Witness 1 provided screenshots of Witness 2's Facebook posts and a conversation to law enforcement. The posts from Witness 2 conveyed her perception that the riot was not chaotic or crazy, though noting a window was broken and her brother relayed there was tear gas. She further explained her brother communicated with her through FaceTime while he was in the Capitol building and she said her brother and others were there to support contesting election results of certain states.

In addition to the Facebook posts, Witness 1 provided identifying information for Witness 2 and her brothers. Court documents said that although Witness 1 did not know Witness 2's brothers or which brother Witness 2 referred to in her Facebook posts, Witness 1 located information about Witness 2's two brothers on the internet and identified them as Eric Von Bernewitz and Paul Von Bernewitz who live in Virginia Beach.

On January 19, Special Agents from FBI Norfolk interviewed Eric Von Bernewitz with his lawyer on the phone. Court documents said he admitted that he and his brother entered the Capitol Building on January 6.

Eric explained that he and his brother drove together to Washington D.C. and according to Eric, Paul went with him for protection because Eric's right arm is paralyzed. Eric allegedly said that they entered the Capitol Building from the Northwest corner in the front and went to the Northeast comer in the back. Court documents then say Eric stated that he turned off his phone before entering the U.S. Capitol because it was low on battery in case he later needed it to find his brother. Court documents claim Eric said he got caught up in the excitement of the crowd, went in the Capitol Building unexpectedly, and left within ten minutes.

Related: Williamsburg man accused of hitting Capitol officers with stick during Jan. 6 riot

On January 21, Special Agents from FBI Norfolk interviewed Paul with his lawyer on the phone. Paul admitted that he and his brother Eric both entered the Capitol Building. Court documents claim Paul explained that his brother asked him to go and he agreed so that he could take care of his brother, partially due to his brother's disability. According to Paul he and his brother attended a rally, during which the crowd decided to go to the Capitol building. Outside of the Capitol, the crowd began to push toward an open door. Paul said that he further advised that he and his brother were in the Capitol for a short period of time, estimating less than ten minutes.

Court documents said Paul explained that he took approximately four photos inside the Capitol Building and later deleted them as is his normal practice to delete items from his phones. Eventually more police arrived and forced the crowd back outside through the same door which they had entered the building.

Court documents explained, "Based on the foregoing, your affiant submits that there is probable cause to believe that Eric Von Bernewitz and Paul Von Bernewitz violated 18 U.S.C. § 1752(a)(1) and (2), which makes it a crime to (1) knowingly enter or remain in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do; and (2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions; or attempts or conspires to do so. For purposes of Section 1752 of Title 18, a "restricted building" includes a posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service, including the Vice President, is or will be temporarily visiting; or any building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.

Your affiant submits there is also probable cause to believe that Eric Von Bernewitz and Paul Von Bernewitz violated 40 U.S.C. § 5104(e)(2)(D) and (G), which makes it a crime to willfully and knowingly (D) utter loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engage in disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place in the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session of Congress or either House of Congress, or the orderly conduct in that building of a hearing before, or any deliberations of, a committee of Congress or either House of Congress; and (G) parade, demonstrate, or picket in any of the Capitol Buildings."