Prosecutors are pursuing a wider conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers, charging six more people with links to the far-right militia for their alleged roles in last month’s violent breach of the U.S. Capitol.
A new indictment filed on Friday added to growing evidence that members of extreme right-wing groups planned and coordinated the Jan. 6 assault in Washington, gathering battle supplies beforehand and communicating as they moved through the building.
The charges built on an indictment the U.S. filed against members of the Oath Keepers last month and amounted to the largest conspiracy case over the riot that the U.S. has brought so far, expanding the number of alleged participants from three to nine. Some of the defendants “donned paramilitary gear” and arranged themselves in a martial “stack formation” as they conspired to stop Congress from certifying the election results, prosecutors said.
The U.S. has charged more than 200 people with a range of crimes since the riot, from trespassing to assault. But recently the investigation has shifted to focus on members of right-wing groups who allegedly plotted the breach.
The original indictment, filed last month, named three people with links to the Oath Keepers: Thomas Caldwell of Virginia and Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl of Ohio. A superseding indictment filed on Friday added Sandra Parker and her husband Bennie Parker of Ohio, Kelly Meggs and her husband Connie Meggs of Florida, and Graydon Young of Florida and his sister Laura Steele of North Carolina.
Lawyers for the six new defendants couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A lawyer for Caldwell has argued that the three original defendants were made into scapegoats for the riot.
A far-right anti-government group, the Oath Keepers counts tens of thousands of military veterans and former law enforcement officials among its members. Along with the Proud Boys, it has been heavily implicated in the attack.
The U.S. accused the defendants of gathering paramilitary gear used during the riot, including camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets and radio equipment. One of them, Kelly Meggs, sent a series of Facebook messages in the run-up to the siege, saying “it’s gonna to be wild!!!” and that then-president Donald Trump “wants us to make it WILD,” according to the indictment.
The language echoed that of a tweet Trump sent in December. His impeachment for incitement of insurrection ended in acquittal on Feb. 13.
Some members of the group discussed bringing weapons to the Capitol in advance of the riot, prosecutors said. In a text exchange included in the indictment, Watkins told Bennie Parker to pack tan or khaki pants, adding that he could bring weapons as well.
“So I can bring my gun?” Parker replied, according to the government.
That apparent coordination continued on the day of the breach, prosecutors said. At the Capitol, seven of the alleged rioters gathered in a military-style stack formation, the U.S. alleged, with each person keeping at least one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them.
“As they navigated through the Capitol,” the indictment said, the group “continued to communicate with one another by keeping their hands on each other’s backs.”
In the weeks since the siege, evidence has steadily emerged of ominous preparations for the day’s events by pro-Trump extremists. Prosecutors previously accused Watkins of arranging military training sessions for fellow Oath Keepers in the weeks leading up to the riot. And members of the Proud Boys solicited donations to finance their travel to Washington and pay for “safety/protective gear” and “communications equipment,” according to court records.
That evidence of coordination and planning has raised the prospect of more-serious charges as the investigation progresses, possibly including sedition or racketeering.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.