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US Alleges Wider Oath Keepers Conspiracy, Adds More Defendants in Jan.6 Capitol Riot

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A 21-page indictment alleged that the defendants knowingly combined, conspired, confederated and agreed with each other and with other known and unknown people to force entry into Capitol Hill and prevent Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as president in riots that led to five deaths and attacks against 139 police officers.

The nine-person indictment named three previously indicted military veterans Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both of Woodstock, Ohio; and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Virginia. The six new accused include siblings Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., And Laura Steele, of Thomasville, North Carolina. It also includes married couples Kelly and Connie Meggs, 52 and 59, of Dunnellon, Florida; and Bennie and Sandra Parker, 70 and 60, from the Cincinnati area.

On December 22, Kelly Meggs wrote a message on Facebook saying that Trumps was commenting that January 6 would be wild meant he wanted us to make him WILD. … He called us all to the Capitol. … Gentlemen, we are heading to DC, the indictment alleges.

Kelly Meggs added days later that there would be at least 50 to 100 oath-observers present, according to the indictment, and published over Christmas that he had been appointed as Florida state official today. ‘hui.

Steele reportedly emailed Meggs and Florida Oath Keepers that week at the suggestion of his brothers, to expedite his request to join the group to attend the events on January 5 and 6.

Prosecutors allege the group conspired to assist or schedule paramilitary combat training; recruited supporters online; and coordinates[ed] … and join[ed] forces with members of the Oath Guards and people from other regions to invade the Capitol in military-style camouflage tactical gear and in a single-line stack formation.

The six-count indictment includes charges of aiding and abetting the obstruction of formal proceedings, destruction of government property, forgery of documents and trespassing. The charge of obstruction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the group used Zello, a walkie-talkie-style app, and created a channel called Stop the Steal J6 to plan and communicate during the operation.

In audio recordings obtained by the FBI, Watkins, a former Army soldier, allegedly said on Capitol Hill that she was leading a group of 30 to 40 other people who forced entry and invaded police.

Prosecutors called Caldwell, a former US Navy intelligence officer and FBI official, a key figure in the investigation who allegedly organized a group of trained Watkins fighters and was in contact with self-proclaimed militias including the Prouds. Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. .

Caldwell used his military and police background to plan the violence, including possible snipers and weapons stashed on a boat along the Potomac River, according to court documents.

Caldwell began coordinating with the Oath Keepers the week after the election, when he welcomed members to his home in Virginia for a pro-Trump protest on Nov. 14 in Washington that turned violent, prosecutors said.

Next time (and there will be a next time) we will have learned and we will be stronger, he sent a message to others afterwards, according to court documents. I think there will be real violence for all of us next time. … I’m already working on the next DC op.

He responded after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, identified as the first person in impeachment documents, called on members to support President Trump on Jan.6, prosecutors alleged.

According to prosecutors, associates of the Oath Keepers held a focus group on the cryptic app Signal to prepare for January 6, while Three Percenters met on Zoom.

The Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have all denied that their groups plan to break through on Capitol Hill on January 6.

An attorney for Kelly Meggs declined to comment, but in a bail motion filed before the indictment, said his client was a successful car dealership with no criminal record beyond a misdemeanor arrest. Any perceived risk of leakage it may pose is nominal and any danger to the community merely theoretical, wrote David Wilson.

Lawyers for Young, Steele, Bennie Parker and Connie Meggs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Parkers, of Morrow, Ohio, appeared in federal court Thursday on charges of conspiracy, trespassing, destruction of government property and obstructing Congress’s confirmation of President Bidens’ election victory, court documents show . They have been conditionally released pending trial by US Justice of the Peace Karen L. Litkovitz.

FBI indictment papers indicate Bennie Parker was recruited by Watkins and assisted his wife and other members by communicating with them inside the Capitol while he remained outside.

Bennie Parker wrote to Watkins before the riot I may have to see what it takes to join your militia as theirs was not very active, charge logs say.

Three days after the insurgency, Watkins reassured Parker that I had followed the FBI wanted list and it appears they are only interested in people who destroyed things, accusing alleged papers. The FBI said she added, I wouldn’t mind them coming after us. Watkins was arrested the following week.

A lawyer for Sandra Parker declined to comment.

Caldwell’s attorney, Thomas K. Plofchan Jr., called the indictment of the three a deliberate attempt to find a scapegoat for the January 6 activities.

Caldwell is a highly decorated veteran and former FBI official who expects the charges to be dismissed or acquitted at trial, Plofchan argued. He said Caldwell is not a member of the Oath Keepers and never entered the Capitol that day. Plofchan also said that the impeachment document did not contain any factual claim that Caldwell coordinated any activity aimed at entering the Capitol, disrupting any proceedings or taking action against anyone.

Watkins told the Ohio Capital Journal last month: I haven’t committed any crime. I didn’t destroy anything. I didn’t destroy anything, adding that the riot was a peaceful protest that turned violent.

Rhodes said Caldwell is not a dues-paying member of Oath Keepers and that he does not hold any leadership position within the organization.

Rhodes also said he was unaware Caldwell was taking action on Jan.6 on behalf of Oath Keepers, and that he had given no directives or signals to members to storm the Capitol.

Founded in 2009, the Oath Keepers are an anti-government group that focuses on recruiting military, law enforcement and first responders, and some members are associated with self-proclaimed militias. The group has become an armed security for right-wing causes and prominent figures at pro-Trump events, and claims the power to disobey government orders that some say are part of a plot to deprive Americans of their constitutional rights, such as the regulation of firearms.

Insurgent leader investigators identified members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, a right-wing group with a history of violence, among those who appeared to organize and coordinate small groups. Several have been accused of engaging in the earliest and most aggressive actions.

Dominic Pezzola, who is accused of assaulting officers, stealing a riot shield, obstruction and related crimes, said he only got involved with the Proud Boys in November and already regretted his actions.

At the time, he was driven by honorable intentions, believing he was protecting his country from an election stolen by corrupt powers, his lawyer Jonathan Zucker wrote in a motion on Thursday. Since his arrest, having time to reflect and see how things turned out, he now realizes that he has been duped into these mistaken beliefs.

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