In connection with the riot plot, further Oath Keeper suspects have been arrested.
A unit is defined as having worked like a military stack.
The Justice Department filed charges on Friday against six additional suspected members of the Oath Keepers, resulting in the addition of new defendants to a lawsuit that had already accused others in the far-right militia community of a planned assault on the Capitol on January 6 and the attempt to postpone the election certification.
The charges, filed in Federal District Court in Washington, DC, accused Kelly Meggs, the self-described chief of the Oath Keepers' Florida chapter, and his wife, Connie, of engaging in a stack-like formation in which they marched together with four other militia members, one of whom was a middle-aged Ohio couple, up the flight of stairs that lead to the Capitol and into the house. The six-member party has been accused in court records of working with the three Oath Keepers charged last month: Thomas E. Caldwell, Jessica M. Watkins, and Donovan Crowl.
This most recent new indictment that has so far involved nine members of the Oath Keepers reflects the government's most serious attempt so far to show that far-right activists were working together in advance of January 6 to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's victory and to help former President Donald Trump hold on to power.
Prosecutors argue that in late December, Meggs wrote a Facebook message that repeated a tweet Trump had posted about the forthcoming Washington rally to protest the election results, stating that it would be “wild.”
“He wants us to make it WILD, which is what he's trying to say,” Mr. Meggs clarified. He had everybody in the Capitol, and wanted us to do it wild! Sir, YES, Sir! Gentlemen, we are on our way to Washington, DC.
Based on court records filed previously, the Oath Keepers started trying to undermine Mr. Biden's win within a week of the election, preparing for urban warfare and riot control training, and arranging a boat crossing from Virginia to Washington, D.C., with the purpose of smuggling heavy arms into the region. Prosecutors allege that Ms. Watkins in particular was waiting for guidance from Mr. Trump as early as mid-November about how to respond to the election results.
The Oath Keepers (a group formed by veterans and law enforcement), have a long history of antigovernment activism, and they have emerged as one of the most influential radical organizations who wrongly challenged the legitimacy of the election and who participated in the storming of the Capitol.
Just one week after Election Day, for instance, Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, told Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist, that he had a team stationed outside of Washington, D.C., prepared to operate at Mr. Trump's command. On December 12, Mr. Rhodes called on Mr. Trump to invoke the Rebellion Act, warning that failing to do so would result in a "bloody and much more devastating war."
According to the latest indictment, on January 4th, Mr. Rhodes called on his organization's website to encourage "all patriots" to "stand tall in support of President Trump's fight to defeat the enemies foreign and domestic who are attempting a coup." Therefore, prosecutors may be building a case against Mr. Rhodes as well.
Prosecutors say that after the votes were cast in November, the Oath Keepers formed a plot to overthrow the government. Ms. Watkins, a 38-year-old bar owner from Ohio, is accused of sending a text message to many potential recruits, reminding them that they had to be “fighting fit” by Inauguration Day. The documents state that shortly afterwards, she recommended to her recruits that they use the chat app Zello to communicate while on “operations.”
When the following week a new recruit asked her what 2021 would bring, Ms. Watkins confessed that Mr. Biden might be the president, according to prosecutors. She asserted, “If he is, our way of life as we know it is finished.” The United States will be doomed. As Americans, we must fight, kill, and die for our freedom.
In December, according to court documents, Graydon Young, 54, approached the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, asking to join the organization while Crowl, a veteran of the Navy, attended a training camp in North Carolina. Following Mr. Trump's Jan. 6 rally in Washington, the militia members said they were setting their sights on the rally and seeking accommodation in the city and meeting with other groups of Oath Keepers who would be traveling from North Carolina and Mississippi, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Meggs allegedly posted a Facebook message on Christmas Day stating that weapons were not allowed in Washington, and then commented that he would carry "mace and gas masks, some batons" if he came to the case. Two weeks later, prosecutors allege that he posted online about a “QRF,” or a Rapid Reaction Force, that would be part of the Oath Keepers' party on their mission to Washington, D.C. Those statements by Mr. Caldwell had also repeated the messages that he had sent, saying he wanted to introduce a team of armed militias on the outskirts of Washington that could run to the aid of the city in the event of an attack.
Court papers state that the suspects started heading towards Washington on January 4th. Mr. Young, one of the defendants in the case, moved from North Carolina to New York City, where he stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn with his girlfriend, Laura Steele, who is also a defendant in the case. The Mr. Crowl, Ms. Watkins, and the Bennie and Sandra Parker couple all drove from Ohio. Mr. Caldwell, a native of Virginia, allegedly paid for a room at a Comfort Inn in the Washington suburbs. As reported in the court papers, Ms. Watkins reserved her own room there and the Parkers did as well.
On the day prior to the attack, Mr. and Mrs. Meggs were pictured at a rally offering support in front of the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court, where Donald Trump's former advisor, Roger Stone, addressed the audience.
Later, on January 6, the conspirators donned military-style apparel and entered the Capitol, except for Mr. Caldwell, who was on a balcony on the west side of the building with another Oath Keeper, prosecutors said. The document states that the group moved past at least one police officer, and that they communicated with each other using Zello and email, explaining the paint balls and tear gas being fired at them.
Right now, we are in the main dome, Ms. Watkins noted. We are on top of it.
Watkins allegedly sent a text to Parker the next day, after the conspirators had all returned home, saying she had seen the FBI's “wanted list” of suspects from the Capitol attack and did not feel there was any cause for concern.
"We won't have to worry about them pursuing us," she said.
However, Federal agents arrived at her home in Ohio with a search warrant within a couple of days. The agents found a number of weapons, a paintball pistol, pool cues cut to “baton size,” plastic zip ties, and a recipe for creating a destructive device.
Prosecutors said that agents searching Mr. Caldwell's home in Virginia found a paper named “Death List” that included the name of an election official from another state. Prosecutors argue that the agents have found a weapon that was made with the intention of looking like a telephone.