A California man who allegedly joined the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 over what they falsely believed was a stolen election and is wanted by the FBI has fled the country and is seeking asylum in authoritarian Belarus.
Evan Neumann, 48, was charged in March with six crimes related to the insurrection, including two felonies for assaulting an officer and participating in a civil disorder. He told the state-controlled Belarus 1 news channel on Nov. 7 that his lawyer had advised him to flee to Europe. He called the charges against him “unfounded” and claimed they amount to “political persecution.”
Neumann, a handbag manufacturer from Mill Valley, a small city north of San Francisco, didn’t respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for comment sent via email and a LinkedIn message.
Neumann said in the news segment titled “Goodbye, America!” that he went to extreme lengths to evade arrest by US law enforcement, sketching out a “Catch Me If You Can”-style escape.
He said he flew to the EU in March under the guise of a business trip and then traveled to Switzerland by train. From there, he said he drove to Germany and onward to Poland. He then crossed into Ukraine and settled in central Zhytomyr in mid-March. He rented an apartment there for four months, he said, before he decided to flee that country, as well.
Neumann said he left Ukraine after noticing that he was being followed by agents from the Ukrainian security service, the SBU. In August, under the cover of night, he explained, he crossed illegally by foot into Belarus, making his way through swampy forest land and dodging wild boars and snakes.
Belarus does not have an extradition treaty with the United States and tensions between the countries have frayed significantly since Washington and much of the world deemed the presidential elections in August 2020 to be rigged. Alexander Lukashenko, known as Europe’s last dictator, has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than two decades. He claims to have won that election, although evidence shows he likely lost to challenger Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
Federal prosecutors brought charges against Neumann under seal in late March; it’s been common for the Justice Department to do this in Capitol riot cases until they arrest a defendant, citing concerns about suspects trying to destroy evidence and putting police in danger.
According to the charging documents, FBI agents had followed him to the San Francisco International Airport on Feb. 16 and questioned him there about being in Washington on Jan. 6; Neumann allegedly confirmed he’d been in DC and “interacted” with law enforcement but declined to provide details. He wasn’t taken into custody and the government didn’t specify if he’d gotten on a plane at the time.
Three months after filing charges, prosecutors asked a judge to unseal the case, explaining that Neumann remained “at large” and that making the charges public would at least give authorities more options to try to track him down.
“The government has reason to believe that Mr. Neumann is already aware he is being investigated in relation to the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, and is actively attempting to evade arrest,” prosecutors wrote.
In a handful of cases, prosecutors have identified alleged rioters as posing a flight risk. According to government court filings, Jeffrey Sabol of Colorado told authorities after he was arrested that he’d planned to fly to Zürich, Switzerland, because he didn’t believe there was an extradition treaty with the United States (there is). He’d said he planned to ski for a few days to make it “look natural.” Sabol said he’d made it to the airport but turned around and left after police officers said something to him about his backpack.
The vast majority of people charged in the Capitol riots have been arrested without incident and, if they’ve been allowed to go home while their cases are pending, have complied with the pretrial release conditions imposed by judges. Neumann is one of at least three defendants who have evaded arrest so far or failed to show up to court after their initial arrest. More than 650 people have been federally charged.
Photos from the criminal complaint against Neumann show him allegedly pushing a guard rail and punching a police officer identified as “J.M.”
Jan. 6 wasn’t the first time Neumann took part in a revolt over an election. US authorities, citing Neumann’s LinkedIn page, said he participated in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. That uprising overturned the rigged presidential election of Viktor Yanukovych. (Yanukovych later went on to win an election deemed free and fair by international observers in 2010, but he was overthrown by the Euromaidan Revolution in 2014.) Photos from the criminal complaint also show Neumann among the Jan. 6 mob wearing a scarf from the Orange Revolution.
ABC 7 reported that Neumann sold his two-bedroom, one-bath home in Mill Valley in April for $1.3 million. The buyer of Neumann’s home told the news channel, “There was pressure to close. The last we heard is he was in Ukraine.”