Santa Ynez resident Karen Jones, right, stood among rioters on the Capitol's East Steps shortly before the crowd stormed its way into the building. "I was in the first wave up the stairs," she told those gathered, before leading them in the Pledge of Allegiance. "Thank you to all of the people that carried me." | Credit: Courtesy

A Santa Barbara–based “sedition hunter,” a member of an online group of amateur sleuths who help the FBI identify members of the pro-Trump mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, has collected video evidence of a North County elected official and her husband trespassing into the Capitol building during the riot.

The footage, which was forwarded in recent days to the FBI as well as the Santa Barbara Independent, first shows Karen Jones ​— ​a two-time candidate for county supervisor who currently serves as president of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Services District ​— ​and her husband, Robert, attending the rally at the Ellipse, where the former president encouraged his supporters to “fight like hell” to “take back our country.” The couple is then spotted at the front of the crowd near the base of the Capitol building’s East Steps shortly before it rushes forward, shoving and battering a line of police officers as it advances.

The clips come from security camera and body cam footage, as well as cell phone video posted on social media by individual rioters, which has been downloaded, archived, and made public by the online detective community, who are also referred to as “open-source intelligence investigators.” They’ve used publicly available facial recognition software to track thousands of individuals over the course of that day, labeling them with monikers like #FlagFaceBandit and #GasMaskTwins so others can pick up where they left off. Their work thus far has aided in hundreds of arrests. Karen and Robert Jones have been identified as #Insider1492 and #Insider0594, respectively.

FOUND IN THE FOYER: Karen and Robert Jones milled with the crowd inside the East Foyer doors before entering the Rotunda. | Credit: Courtesy

The Santa Barbara investigator asked to remain anonymous, though their identity is known to the Independent. Neither Karen nor Robert Jones responded to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for the FBI said the agency could not confirm nor deny the existence of an open investigation 

In a video captured when rioters took control of the steps, Jones, wearing a cream-colored fleece pullover and a black-and-yellow Trump baseball cap, speaks into a microphone. “Hi, I’m Karen Jones,” she announces. “I’m from Calabasas, California, home of the Reagan Ranch, and I’m very proud to be here.” (The Joneses, in reality, are longtime residents of Santa Ynez, and the Reagan Ranch is located in Santa Barbara.)

“I was in the first wave up the stairs,” Jones bellows. “I lucked out. Thank you to all of the people that carried me in the crowd. Took a little pepper spray. Didn’t think I’d ever be sprayed by cops in my own country. I support the police. But I’d like everybody to join me in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Karen Jones | Credit: Courtesy

Footage then shows both Joneses inside the Capitol building near the East Foyer doors as the crowd continues to surge. While neither are depicted engaging in any violence or property destruction themselves, officers are openly assaulted just feet from them in the foyer, and then again inside the Capitol Rotunda. During one confrontation, Robert Jones, wearing a blue-and-green jacket and a blue Trump beanie, is jostled as nearby members of the mob grapple with officers while shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Federal authorities have so far arrested 928 individuals involved in the attack, many of them on charges of “entering and remaining in a restricted building” or “disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.” Four members of the United States Capitol Police have died by suicide since the incident. 

The Joneses would be the first Santa Barbara County residents to be charged in connection with January 6, and only the second or third in the tri-counties. In 2021, 32-year-old Ventura resident Eduardo Nicolas Alvear Gonzalez ​— ​dubbed “The Capitol Rotunda Doobie Smoker” after he livestreamed himself lighting up in the name of “freedom” ​— ​was arrested and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He spent 45 days in jail and was sentenced to two years of probation.

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Also last year, an Orcutt man who attended the Ellipse rally but allegedly did not breach the Capitol resigned from his position as CEO of the OASIS Senior Center. Doug Dougherty, who had led the North County organization for more than 10 years, was pressured to step down after a number of his Facebook posts went public, including one on January 5, 2021, that stated “Tomorrow the walls shake,” and another that made an ageist swipe at a critic: “You show every one of your 65+ years of age in your dementia riddled logic,” Dougherty wrote. “Time to hit that life alert button so the staff can help you climb into bed at the retirement home.”

A political firebrand and active member of her community, 63-year-old Jones is the founding president and a current volunteer at the Santa Ynez Valley Opportunity Shop, hosts an annual music festival at her home called JonesFest (where her friend, country music star Kinky Friedman, recently played) and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority (SYVAA). “Her three-year term expired in October 2020 and she did not seek reelection at that time,” said current SYVAA President Jourdi de Werd.

Robert Jones | Credit: Courtesy

Jones appears to instead be focusing her energies on the Santa Ynez Valley Community Services District, a tax-collecting body she has presided over since 2020 and which provides sewer collection and streetlight services to residents. She was originally elected to its Board of Directors in 2016. Requests for comment from vice president David Beard and general manager Loch Dreizler went unreturned.

Earlier this fall, the district generated controversy by voting to significantly reduce the salaries of its small workforce, in some cases by more than $2,000 a month. The employees, represented by the Teamsters labor union, have stated they could not survive such a loss in income and would be forced to quit. 

During her bids for supervisor in 2016 and 2020 to represent Santa Barbara County’s  3rd District, Jones made no secret of her distaste for unions. She was also outspoken in her opposition to plans by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to build a tribal center and housing for its members, calling their casino operations a “racket” and arguing Native American land should not be designated as sovereign nations. She supported increasing oil and gas production in Santa Maria’s Cat Canyon, legalizing cannabis, and preserving the valley’s agriculture. She didn’t accept any campaign donations from corporations or special interest groups and touted a platform of “individual liberty” and “personal responsibility.”

During both campaigns, the conservative Jones forged an unlikely alliance with Democrat Joan Hartmann, the ultimate winner in each contest. The two ganged up on Hartmann’s stronger Republican rival, Bruce Porter, whom Jones accused of kowtowing to donors and shirking his “moral obligations.” Though she may disagree with Hartmann on policy issues, Jones would frequently say, she admired Hartmann’s strong ethical code. When it became clear Jones was not within striking distance of either opponent, she threw her support behind Hartmann, likely helping her secure victory over Porter in relatively tight races.

Jones grew up in Bakersfield, where her parents were heavily involved in the Republican Party. Her mother registered voters while Jones played at party headquarters; her father talked politics with a reporter over nightcaps, as she eavesdropped. Raising three children of her own, Jones frequently took them to political debates and protests, her daughter stated in a 2016 editorial. “This taught me about the power of ‘we the people’ and that it is up to the individuals of a populace to have their voices heard and make a difference,” she wrote.

Karen Jones in the Capitol Rotunda | Credit: Courtesy

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