U.S. alleges wider Oath Keepers conspiracy, adds more defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol riot

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According to Washington Post

U.S. authorities on Friday alleged a broader conspiracy by Oath Keepers to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, charging six new individuals who appeared to be members or associates of the right-wing group.

One self-described leader in the group, which recruits among military and law enforcement, sent a Facebook message claiming at least 50 to 100 Oath Keepers planned to travel to D.C. with him on Jan. 6 and that they would “make it wild.”

A 21-page indictment alleged that the defendants “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown” to force entry to the Capitol and obstruct Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as president.

The nine-person indictment named three already charged military veterans — Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both of Woodstock, Ohio; and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va. The six new defendants include siblings Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., and Laura Steele, of Thomasville, N.C. It also includes married couples Kelly and Connie Meggs, 52 and 59, of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Bennie and Sandra Parker, 70 and 60, of the Cincinnati area.

On Dec. 22, Kelly Meggs wrote a Facebook message saying Trump’s comment that Jan. 6 would be “wild” meant he “wants us to make it WILD. . . . He called us all to the Capitol. . . . Gentlemen we are heading to DC,” the indictment alleges.

Kelly Meggs added a few days later that there would be “at least” 50 to 100 Oath Keepers in attendance, the indictment said, and posted on Christmas that he “was named State lead of Florida today.”

Steele allegedly emailed Meggs and Florida Oath Keepers that week at her brother’s suggestion, to expedite her application to join the group to participate in the events on Jan. 5 and 6.

Prosecutors allege the group conspired to attend or schedule paramilitary combat training; recruited supporters online; and “coordinat[ed] . . . and join[ed] forces” with members of Oath Keepers and people from other regions to invade the Capitol in military-style camouflage tactical gear and in a single-file “stack” formation.

The six-count indictment includes charges of aiding and abetting the obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, tampering with documents and trespassing. The obstruction charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the group used Zello, a walkie-talkie-like application, and created a channel called “Stop the Steal J6” to develop plans and communicate during the operation.

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