The Washington Post reports that a founding member of the Oath Keepers militia who was arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection “has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate against others in the case — the first defendant to potentially flip in the sprawling domestic terrorism investigation that has led to charges against more than 400 people.”
The scheduled plea comes exactly 100 days after Jon Ryan Schaffer and hundreds of other supporters of former president Donald Trump allegedly stormed the Capitol hoping to prevent Joe Biden from being confirmed as the next president. Prosecutors hope Schaffer’s plea spurs others to provide additional evidence in hopes of avoiding long prison sentences.
The plea marks a new stage in the historic investigation, as prosecutors seek to work up the chain of defendants to gather evidence and better understand the full scope of any planning and organizing of the violence — particularly among groups like the far-right Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Dozens of members from both groups appeared to act in concert to storm the building, prosecutors have alleged.
Schaffer, 53, a guitarist and lead songwriter for the heavy metal band Iced Earth, was charged on Friday by criminal information, a type of charging document used when a defendant waives the right to an indictment. A plea hearing was set for 11 a.m.
Schaffer has been jailed since he turned himself in to FBI agents in Indianapolis on Jan. 18 after being photographed inside the Capitol wearing a hat that said “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.”
Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, which included engaging in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray, but “Friday’s filing shows Schaffer has agreed to plead guilty to only two charges.”
The Post reported that “both are felony offenses carrying heavy penalties that federal prosecutors are relying on heavily in the wider probe.”
One, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison; the other, trespassing on restricted grounds of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon, carries up to a 10 year prison term.
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