Watch CBS News

Former West Virginia legislator convicted on Jan. 6 charges mulls run for federal office

Former state official convicted in Jan. 6 case
Former state lawmaker convicted on Jan. 6 charges considering run for Senate 05:20

Days before he reports to prison, former West Virginia Republican state legislator Derrick Evans tells CBS News he's considering a run for federal office in 2024.  

Evans, the highest-ranking government official to charged so far in a Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol breach criminal case, resigned his seat in the state legislature shortly after his arrest in January 2021. But he said his post-prison plans include a possible run for Congress — when Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, could be seeking reelection. He believes his arrest might actually galvanize political support in a state that overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Evans said he'd seek to have oversight of the U.S. Justice Department, which has just finished prosecuting him.

He pleaded guilty to a count of civil disorder in March and was sentenced in June to three months in prison. He said he expects to be ordered to report to prison in the coming days, and is hoping to be incarcerated close to his home along the West Virginia-Kentucky border. 

Evans acknowledged wearing a helmet and live streaming his movements at the Capitol on Jan. 6. And he says many of his former constituents and his community in Prichard, W.Va., have had few, if any criticisms, of his actions at the Capitol. 

"A lot of these people shook my hand," Evans said. "They thought it was dumb, but they did thank for me for having guts and a backbone."

Derrick Evans at U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo Credit: KDKA

The Justice Department sought prison time for Evans, arguing he was part of a crowd that pushed against the police line during the riot. 

"Evans also made clear his enthusiasm for what was happening — he cheered each advancement of 'patriots' against police on all sides of the Capitol," prosecutors said in a court filing. "He urged rioters around him to 'take' the Capitol and he told them that the certification of the electoral college vote was paused 'because of protestors' and that 'patriots' made it onto the Senate floor. Evans whooped and hollered throughout his livestream, telling his followers, 'Guys, oh my gosh, I can't even explain what is happening right now, how amazing this is to see in person. I am in awe. The revolution has started. The revolution has started!'"

He told CBS News he does not regret going to the Capitol on Jan. 6, but acknowledges it was wrong to go inside amid the mob.  

"Absolutely, I would never go inside, if I had to do it all over again," he said. "In terms of showing up and standing up for what I believe, I'm never going to regret that."

The prosecution of Evans and his request for leniency at sentencing have not softened his position on the 2020 election or former President Trump.  Evans referred to the House select Jan. 6 committee as a "witch hunt,' said he was "overcharged" by prosecutors and referred to the 2020 election as "stolen."

Federal prosecutors have already informed a federal judge about post-sentencing statements by Evans, in which he sought to minimize the crime to which he's pleaded guilty. In a June 30 court filing, a federal prosecutor wrote about a local radio appearance made by Evans after his sentencing, in which he made statements "inconsistent" with the contrition Evans expressed in court.  

"During the radio interview, Evans made multiple, self-exonerating statements that are directly contradicted by his own livestream video from January 6, 2021," the prosecutor said. "Of his intent to move towards the Rotunda Doors and enter the Capitol building, Evans stated: 'I had no intention of going up there [to the Rotunda Doors]. I never honestly thought that we was going to be inside the Capitol, never crossed my mind.'"

Evans said if he were to win a seat in Congress, he would seek to have oversight of the U.S. Justice Department.  

"From top to bottom, our criminal justice system needs reform," said Evans. "I hear people on both sides mention this from time to time but to be honest with you, they don't have a clue and it's not because they don't care — you don't have a clue 'til you've been through it yourself and — and literally, from top to bottom our criminal justice system needs reform.

West Virginia Democrats have been excoriating Evans in the months after his arrest and resignation from office. State Democratic Party Chair Mike Pushkin told CBS News, "Disgraced former Delegate Derrick Evans illegally entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That should be the last time he ever enters that building. I would hope Republican primary voters of West Virginia have a better judgment."

Veteran West Virginia political reporter Brad McElhinny said, "It's hard to imagine a candidate with Derrick Evans' background succeeding in a competitive, high-profile political race because of his resignation from the legislature and his felony plea in the Jan. 6 riot. But West Virginia is a state where Republicans are now dominant and former President Trump remains very popular — so who knows what could happen in a possible run for an open seat in a broad field. Political precedent could fly out the window."

Evans said he does not regret resigning his state legislative seat after his arrest in 2021. 

"I'm not finished in terms of fighting for what I believe in," he said. "Fighting for my constituents and getting back involved in the political arena. So, absolutely all options are on the table moving forward."

When he sentenced Evans to prison, D.C. District Judge Royce Lamberth said it was important to send a message to Americans to prevent future riots.  "I can't just give you probation. Jan. 6 was a blight on our nation" Lamberth said. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.