CHARLESTON — A day after his arrest for taking part in a riotous mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol Building, a West Virginia legislator has turned in his resignation to Gov. Jim Justice.
Del. Derrick Evans, R-Wayne County, announced Saturday that his resignation is effectively immediately and said the past week has been tough on him and his family.
“I take full responsibility for my actions, and deeply regret any hurt, pain or embarrassment I may have caused my family, friends, constituents and fellow West Virginians. I hope this action I take today can remove any cloud of distraction from the state Legislature, so my colleagues can get to work in earnest building a brighter future for our state,” Evans said.
Evans, who was elected in November with 37% of the vote, was charged Friday in U.S. District with entering a restricted area of the U.S. Capitol after he livestreamed himself rushing into the building with a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters. At one point, he proudly yelled, “We’re in baby!” and repeatedly said his name on the video, which quickly made its rounds on social media.
Ken Kohl, a top deputy federal prosecutor in Washington, announced the charge against Evans on a call in which he presented dozens of new charges against members of the crowd that violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday.
Two Marion County lawmakers said Evans’ resignation is the right thing to do.
“We were putting pressure on him to resign, but he did the right thing by resigning. It was better for him and the party and the House of Delegates. It’s just all around. I just wish him the best,” said Del. Guy Ward, R-50.
Ward said he doesn’t believe Evans deserves prison time but he did need to resign.
“The only thing he did, he got sworn in, and that’s it. Session starts Wednesday. I’m glad he did that. I was hoping. A lot of delegates were talking to him and telling him he did the right thing,” Ward said.
Ward said delegates didn’t want to bring Evans’ actions before the House, which does have the authority to remove people as it’s written in the Constitution.
Ward said, at the state level, Democrats and Republicans aren’t as divided as they are on the federal level. He said there’s too big a difference between the left and the right these days and the gap seems to be getting wider.
“I think most people down here in Charleston are pretty close to the center on everything, so statewide I think we’re good. On the federal side, not so good,” Ward said.
Ward’s colleague across the aisle, Del. Joey Garcia, D-50, said Evans actions proved he should not be in elected office.
“He should not be a delegate and unfortunately there’s no question that he will be removed and we will be able to move forward with the business of the legislature and focus on the issues that are most important,” said Joey Garcia.
Garcia said the legislature was prepared to take action to remove Evans. He said hopefully Evans saw the “writing on the wall” and that’s why he made the decision to resign.
“He’ll still have to undergo and be held accountable for his violation of the United States law,” Garcia said. “I think all around it’s understood that violence especially in an effort to stop our democratic processes from doing what they’re supposed to do. I think Democrats and Republicans support those processes and what he did was a violation of those.”
“With us not having to take the vote next Wednesday we can more quickly move on to other bipartisan goals,” said Garcia.
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, on Saturday issued a statement after received Evans’ resignation.
“This has been a sad week in our nation’s history, and it’s been heartbreaking as an American to process what we saw occur at our Capitol,” Hanshaw said. “An angry mob stormed the halls of Congress, disrupted a constitutional proceeding essential to the peaceful transfer of power, and caused the death of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement that Officer Brian D. Sicknick was injured “while physically engaging with protesters” during the Wednesday riot. He is the fifth person to die because of the Capitol protest and violence.
“I am deeply troubled by the number of Americans who chose to resort to violence this week as a means to oppose the current political situation in our country,” Hanshaw said. “No matter how great our political differences, the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another has been the hallmark of the American political system since its inception. We must never allow that to deteriorate into violence.
Evans’ video was downloaded and reposted to social media pages, as well as other sites such as Reddit, which has become the home of the more than four-minute video. An exuberant Evans yells multiple times in the video and when he and his group of followers breach one door, he yells, “Derrick Evans is in the house!”
“Delegate Evans was unfortunately a part of the events this week that threatened what has historically made America a beacon for the rest of the world: the peaceful transfer of power. Earlier today, Delegate Evans made the decision to resign from his position in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Now, we return to the work of rebuilding our nation’s political climate.
“America didn’t get to this point overnight; what happened this week was the culmination of a toxic political culture that’s been building for years. I believe this is a moment for political leaders – on both sides of the aisle – to re-examine ourselves, take a hard look at how we’ve contributed to this culture, and vow to do and be better to achieve Abraham Lincoln’s dream of ‘malice toward none, charity for all’ to once again achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves,” Handshaw said.
Hanshaw urged West Virginians to move past the failed insurrection to a place of healing. He pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many problems it has brought to the state education system and the economy.
““We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us, from dealing with a rampaging pandemic, healing an economy wounded by shutdowns, helping those whose livelihoods have been destroyed, getting our kids back into classrooms and giving them a quality education, finding new ways to open up job opportunities and investment in our state, and continuing our work to truly make West Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family. And the Legislature only gets 60 days to accomplish this,” Hanshaw said.
According to federal court documents released Friday, Evans had posted several social media messages in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 riot encouraging his Facebook followers to join in the mayhem using invites and memes from Donald Trump that said, “It will be wild!”
Under West Virginia Code, the party executive committee of the 19th Delegate District, which covers most of Wayne County, will have up to 15 days to submit names for nomination to the governor. Gov. Jim Justice will have five days after receiving the list of names to appoint a new delegate.
This article also includes content from Associated Press.