Oath Keepers member first to plead guilty in Capitol riot

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A member of the Oath Keepers, Jon Ryan Schaffer, has entered the first guilty plea in the historic investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that has led to charges against more than 400 individuals.

The plea deal comes 100 days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, when hundreds of supporters of former President Trump stormed the legislative building, allegedly aiming to block the certification by Congress of Joe Biden as the next president. 

In his plea agreement, Schaffer, 53, said he was a founding lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, a large, loosely organized collection of individuals and militias, prosecutors said. Schaffer — a guitarist and member of the heavy metal band “Iced Earth” — wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray while in D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, and admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, the Justice Department said. 

The plea marks a new chapter in the government’s massive investigation, as prosecutors pursue verdicts in a growing list of cases and seek to better understand the range of planning and organization among groups present at the attack.

Schaffer was arrested and initially charged with six crimes — including attacking police officers with bear spray — but he pleaded guilty Friday to just two felony charges: obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Combined, the charges carried a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

In pleading guilty, Schaffer agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors, and in exchange, the judge said the government is prepared to file a motion that would allow him to be sentenced under a lower recommended range. Based on his lack of criminal history, the judge said, his recommended sentence was between 41 and 51 months — about three to four years. 

Schaffer turned himself in to FBI agents on January 18 and has been held behind bars in Indianapolis. The defendant was photographed inside the Capitol on January 6, wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt under a tactical vest with a baseball cap that read, “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member,” according to the initial federal criminal complaint. He was seen in photos and surveillance video carrying bear spray and engaging in verbal altercations with Capitol Police officers inside the Capitol Building.

Acting Deputy Attorney General John P. Carlin said in a statement, “The FBI has made an average of more than four arrests a day, seven days a week since January 6th. I commend the hundreds of special agents, prosecutors and support staff that have worked tirelessly for the last hundred days to bring those who committed criminal acts to justice.”

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