Who is Michael Stepakoff?
Michael Stepakoff is best known as a Palm Harbor synagogue rabbi who leads Temple New Jerusalem, a Messianic synagogue in Palm Harbor and is a former lawyer. He is among the latest Floridians to be accused of crimes related to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
A federal criminal complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. alleges that Michael Stepakoff entered the Capitol after a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the building, disrupting congressional certification of the electoral college vote.
Michael Stepakoff was arrested Friday morning at his home in Palm Harbor.
How old is Michael Stepakoff?
According to his date of birth, Michael Stepakoff is 57 years old.
Michael Stepakoff Capitol
A statement of facts attached to the complaint includes two pictures taken from a closed-circuit video, which purport to show Michael Stepakoff entering the Capitol. In one, he is seen stepping through a doorway into a lobby amid a large crowd. Another shows him standing further inside the lobby, beneath a chandelier, apparently gazing around. He wears a dark cap with blue lettering on the front, a green jacket, blue jeans and brown boots.
The video shows him taking photos with a cell phone, according to the complaint. It references an unnamed witness, described as someone that has known Stepakoff for 20 years, who identified him as the person in the images.
The document also includes a copy of a Jan. 6 Facebook post that appeared under Stepakoff’s name. The post included several photos showing the crowds of Trump supporters outside the Capitol, along with a selfie of Stepakoff, in which he wears a similar hat and clothing as those seen in the security video.
“Epic and historical moment,” a caption reads.
Michael Stepakoff Wife
The document also references another Jan. 6 Facebook post from Stepakoff’s wife.
“Update on Michael, yall,” the post read. “Please continue to pray for his protection and to be safe. He texted me privately and said he is okay but it’s very dangerous where he is- He was inside the Capitol Building …”
The Facebook posts referenced in the criminal complaint did not appear to be publicly visible Friday.
Michael Stepakoff Florida
The government did not object to his release, but a prosecutor noted the seriousness of what occurred and said Stepakoff “chose not to walk away.”
Michael Stepakoff Attorney
Stepakoff referred questions to his attorney, Rick Terrana.
“He was there among peaceful protesters,” Terrana said. “There’s certainly nothing he’s done that’s wrong or criminal.”
The criminal complaint seeks charges of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Terrana described Stepakoff as a family man, a “strong Republican,” who is firm in his political convictions. He went to Washington, D.C., for a business trip related to his work as a spiritual leader and attended Trump’s speech, Terrana said.
“There certainly was no pre-planning or organization or conspiracy with him or any of these other people out there,” Terrana said. “He got caught up in the crowd. It’s yet to be seen what if anything he did wrong.”
Michael Stepakoff Facebook, Twitter
In the weeks leading up to the Capitol violence, Stepakoff’s Twitter page featured a number of tweets and retweets relating to efforts to overturn Trump’s election loss. On Jan. 5, he retweeted a post from Trump’s now-suspended account.
“I am proud to be an American,” he wrote, “and I made the trip up from Florida to support the effort to save America. DC swarming with MAGA people. We’re not gonna take it! Thank you, President Trump!”