California man granted asylum in Belarus after Jan. 6 riot

A Northern California man who fled the United States after allegedly assaulting police officers at the US Capital on Jan. 6, 2021, has been granted political asylum in Belarus, state media announced there this week.

Evan Neumann, 49, who lived in Mill Valley in Marin County, was indicated in December 2021 on 14 counts, including assaulting officers and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon. But by then, according to the FBI, he was already in Belarus, a former Soviet republic and current staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Neumann could not be reached for comment. A man who answered a phone number linked to Neumann’s brother and identified himself with the same first name as Neumann’s brother hung up when a reporter identified himself as a Los Angeles Times employee.

The US government says Neumann, who hails from a family that owned prominent hotels in in Sonoma County, flew to Washington, DC, on Jan. 5, 2021, and was spotted on police body-cam video outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, wearing a red MAGA hat and an orange and yellow scarf commemorating the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2005. Neumann, who spent time in Eastern Europe and reportedly supported the pro-democratic Orange Revolution, also sported a gas mask, according to the government.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Jan. 6, 2021.

(Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Standing just behind a barricade meant to keep rioters out of the Capitol, according to the government, Neumann advised officers, saying they “kneel to antifa because they’re little bitches,” and telling one officer that they will be overrun by the crowd and warning: “I’m willing to die. Are you?”

Around 2 pm, according to the government, Neumann used the barricade as a battering ram, lifting it off the ground and rushing toward the officers. Hours later, after 5 pm, Neumann was still at a restricted place on the Capitol steps, refusing to leave and calling the officers “motherf—” and “f—ing murderers,” according to prosecutors.

Neumann is the son of late Santa Rosa hotelier Claus Neumann, and in the days after the riots, an anonymous tipster claiming to be a family friend gave Neumann’s name and home address to federal authorities. Officials then compared their footage with a television interview Neumann did with a local television station after a wildfire.

In 2017, Santa Rosa police arrested Neumann and his younger brother, Mark, on suspicion of crossing official barricades to visit his mother’s destroyed house in the city’s Fountaingrove neighborhood after the deadly Tubbs fire.

On Feb. 16, 2021, FBI agents staked out Neumann’s house in Mill Valley and then followed him to the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport, where they interviewed him. He admitted to flying to Washington on Jan. 5 and returning on Jan. 7 but declined to say whether he had any “physical engagement” with law enforcement or whether he entered any federal buildings during his trip. Neumann, who had several businesses, including a handbag one, was then allowed to leave the country.

He flew to Italy, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and then traveled to Ukraine. But, according to interviews Neumann gave to Belarusian state media, he began to fear that he was being watched and, because of close ties between the US and Ukraine, that he could be extradited.

He crossed into Belarus, encountering snakes and boars, he said in an interview with Belarusian state television that has since been posted on YouTube.

In the interview, in which Neumann is pictured at times strolling in a town square with his interviewer and at other times sitting in an office next to a potted plant, he described officers hitting him with pepper spray on Jan. 6 and said “very strange things happened” at the Capitol. He also asserted that someone inside opened the doors to the building and that rioters were “invited to come in.”

In the spring of 2021, Neumann sold his two-bedroom house in tony Mill Valley for $1.3 million, closing the deal in a speedy 2 1/2 weeks, according to an interview the buyer gave to ABC7.

“We did some Googling,” Jason Dubaniewicz said in the interview, after learning the seller was in Ukraine. “We found an eclectic person.”

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