Federal prosecutors are engaged in “informal plea negotiations” with a right-wing extremist group called the Oath Keepers who are accused of coordinating storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
All possible deals remain “tentative” at this point, but prosecutors hope to formalize them in the next two months. ABC news reported.
News of possible plea deals came shortly after Monday’s government indictment of four more Oath Keepers, meaning 16 of its members have now been charged over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Joseph Hackett, 50, Jason Dolan, 40, William Isaacs, 21, and another unnamed defendant, were charged Monday.
The 12 other alleged Oath Keepers previously charged include: Thomas Caldwell, 65, Donovan Crowl, 50, Jessica Watkins, 38, Sandra Parker, 60, Bennie Parker, 70, Graydon Young, 54, Laura Steele, 52, Kelly Meggs , 52, Connie Meggs, 59, Kenneth Harrelson, 40, Roberto Minuta, 36, Joshua James, 33, Joseph Hackett, 50.
The 16 accused Oath Keepers are charged with conspiracy and obstruction to civil disorder and assaulting officers. All have pleaded innocent.
The Oath Keepers are a far-right, anti-government militia that claims to have approximately 35,000 members.
Members of the oath keepers on the steps of the Capitol during the January 6 riot. A total of 16 have now been charged with federal conspiracy
Several accused Oath Keeper rioters can be seen in this photo released by the Justice Department
Four more members of the far-right militia have been charged with federal criminal conspiracy, bringing the total number to be prosecuted to 16
Jon Ryan Scaffer, 53, one of the founding members of the far-right group, pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to the January 6 riots in the US Capitol in mid-April. He originally faced six charges.
Police said the Indiana man was armed with bear spray when he stormed into the Capitol after a “Stop the Steal” demonstration earlier in the day.
As part of the plea deal, Schaffer has agreed to work with investigators — sparking rumors that he might “turn on” some of his fellow Oath Keeper members.
So far, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has not been charged, but he was repeatedly named in the newly unsealed indictment as “Person One.”
It is unclear why he was not arrested, or whether he attended the US Capitol riot on January 6.
According to prosecutors, on Nov. 9 – after Biden’s election was called – Rhodes told supporters in an online GoToMeeting conference call: “We are going to defend the president, the duly elected president. Because if you don’t, guys, you’re going to get into a bloody, bloody civil war and a bloody…insurrection, or you can call it a war or a battle.
‘I want to sacrifice myself for that. Let the fight begin there. That will honestly give President Trump what he needs.
‘If it’s kinetic, fine. If they throw bombs at us and shoot us, great, because that brings the president his reason and reason for dropping the Insurrection Act.”
“I really want a few oath-keepers to stay out, and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in armed, if I have to… So our stance will be that we’re posted outside of DC, um, pending the President’s orders. . . . We hope he will give us the orders.
“We want him to call a rebellion and call us in as the militia.”
By then, claims from Trump’s camp of voter fraud were rife and millions of supporters of the former president believed he had been robbed of victory.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has not been charged, but he was repeatedly named in the newly disclosed indictment as ‘Person One’. It is unclear why he was not arrested
Jon Ryan Schaffer, 53, entered into a plea deal with prosecutors on Friday, becoming the first person charged in connection with the Jan. 6 assault to plead guilty
The Justice Department released this image in January, which reportedly showed Schaffer holding a can of bear spray
In the coming months, members of the group are said to have planned the attack.
Suspect Jessica Watkins allegedly recruited people in Ohio, telling them he was organizing a week-long training camp and saying, “I want you to stay fit for the inauguration.”
On November 17, when asked what his prediction was for the coming year, Watkins is said to have told a recruit, “I can’t predict it. I don’t underestimate the determination of the Deep State.
“Biden may still be our president. If so, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over.
“Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.”
The arrested men continued to text and exchange emails until the riots.
Rhodes encouraged them online, according to the indictment.
On Jan. 4, he posted online: “It is CRITICAL that all patriots who may be in DC are going to DC to stand firm in support of President Trump’s fight to defeat the foreign and domestic enemies attempting a coup, by the massive vote fraud and related attacks on our Republic.
“We oath-keepers are both honorable and eager to do our part there with force.”
In another, he said: “As we have done with all recent DC Ops, we will also have well-armed and equipped QRF1 teams on standby, outside DC, in the worst case scenario, with the president calling us in as part of the militia to help him inside DC.
“We don’t expect him to call on us at this time, but we’re ready when he does (and we’re also ready to answer the call to serve as a militia anytime in the future.” , and anywhere in our nation, if he invokes the Insurrection Act).’
In plea papers, Schaffer admits he was “at the forefront of a large crowd” that broke open doors to the Capitol on Jan.
Despite his alleged role in organizing the men charged, Rhodes has failed to do so.
He claimed in March that he and other members of the Oath Keeper were the victims of a conspiracy.
“Maybe I’ll go to jail soon, not for something I actually did, but for fabricated crimes,” he said.
Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and a graduate of Yale Law School, started the Oath Keepers in 2009.
The group, which is largely made up of ex-servicemen and law enforcement officers, describes itself as a defender of Americans’ rights against “a tyrannical government”
Since then, the group has started and claims to have tens of thousands of members, although studies estimate the number is unlikely to exceed 5,000, according to NPR.
But even that would make Oath Keepers one of the largest groups in the patriotic militia movement, NPR reported.
Senate Republicans last week voted down a bill passed by the House that would create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Democrats were unable to ignore a Republican filibuster on the bill during a 54-35 vote Friday, which required 60 votes.
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman and Ben Sasse voted along with 48 Democrats.
The bill is now essentially dead — though Democrats may be starting other investigations and some are underway in Senate committees.