Capitol riot: Prosecutors get first guilty plea 100 days after attack

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC
Jon Schaffer, pictured wearing a blue jacket, was seen in news photos taken during the riot

Exactly 100 days since the 6 January riot that saw a pro-Trump mob storm the US Capitol, prosecutors have their first guilty plea.

Jon Schaffer, 53, a member of the Oath Keepers militia group, pleaded guilty to two charges – obstruction of an official proceeding and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon.

Schaffer, who is also a heavy metal guitarist in the band Iced Earth, had originally faced six charges including using a chemical irritant designed for grizzly bears on police officers during clashes.

He turned himself to FBI agents in Indiana two weeks after his arrest, and after a photo of him inside the Capitol wearing a hat reading “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member” appeared on the front pages of US newspapers.

He is facing 30 years in prison and is expected to co-operate with investigators.

How many arrests so far?

The suspects in the Capitol riot are a varied group: they include an ousted West Virginia lawmaker, several police officers and a left-wing activist from Utah.

Most of the rioters were allowed to leave the crime scene, forcing investigators to conduct a national manhunt for the pro-Trump crowd that stormed the halls of Congress.

Investigators for the District of Columbia says they have identified over 540 suspects and charged some 400 people in connection with the Capitol siege.

Just weeks after the rampage in January, FBI officials said they had already been inundated with 140,000 videos and photos from members of the public.

Officials say they are considering filing serious charges of seditious activity against some individuals who were involved in the siege on the Capitol.

According to federal criminal code, seditious conspiracy means an effort to conspire to overthrow the US government. The punishment is severe: up to 20 years in prison.

  • The hunt to identify and arrest Capitol rioters

A man in horns and a fur hat, alleged to be Jake Angeli, pictured inside the Senate chamber
Jacob Anthony Chansley wore horns and a fur hat inside the Senate chamber

What do we know about the suspects?

The rioters facing federal charges hail from 42 out of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia, according to the George Washington University extremism tracker.

Only a few came from pro-Trump strongholds. Most came from districts that voted for Joe Biden in the November election.

In March, the FBI made its first arrest of a Trump appointee, former State Department aide Federico Guillermo Klein. Mr Klein, 42, is accused of multiple felonies related to the riot, including beating police with a stolen riot shield. He was still employed by the State Department as a staff assistant when he joined the mob on 6 January. He is also a former Trump campaign employee, US media report.

Five of those arrested were police officers. Nearly 30 were active-duty or retired members of the military.

  • Five revelations from Capitol riot arrests

About 90% of those arrested have been white, according to an analysis by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats.

Most have been over the age of 40, surprising given that the average age for those involved in political violence around the world is late 20s to early 30s.

Many of those arrested were employed, or even wealthy, including Dr Simone Gold, 55, from Beverly Hills, California.

She was among a group of doctors that last year spread misleading claims about the coronavirus, including that hydroxychloroquine – a drug touted relentlessly by Mr Trump – was an effective treatment.

Jenna Ryan – a real estate broker from Dallas, Texas – garnered attention on social media after she flew to DC by private jet to join the march to the Capitol.

Who are the key people charged so far?

Analysis by BBC Monitoring and BBC Reality Check

Robert Keith Packer

One of the most striking images from that day showed a man wearing a hoodie with the words: “Camp Auschwitz”. Auschwitz was a Nazi extermination camp where more than a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered during World War Two by Germany.

Mr Packer was arrested in Virginia and has been charged with trespassing in a federal building and “violent entry and disorderly conduct” on Capitol grounds.

Robert Keith Packer
Mr Packer wore a garment with the slogan “Camp Auschwitz”

Jake Angeli – ‘Q Shaman’

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli or as he describes himself the “Q Shaman”, is a well-known follower of the unfounded QAnon conspiracy theory who lives in Glendale, Arizona.

QAnon supporters believe Mr Trump and a secret military intelligence team are battling a deep state cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles in the Democratic Party, media, business and Hollywood.

Known for appearing with a painted face, fur hat and horns while carrying a “Q sent me” banner in public, Mr Chansley, 33, has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct after appearing in multiple images inside the halls of Congress and the Senate chamber.

In videos posted to his social media accounts, he shouts about child-trafficking in front of government buildings or inside shopping malls, and attends pro-Trump or QAnon-linked “save our children” rallies.

Like many of his fellow QAnon followers, Mr Chansley says he believes Covid-19 is a hoax.

Mr Trump – viewed as a hero by the movement – has stopped short of endorsing the conspiracy theory but has described QAnon activists as “people who love our country.”

Officer Eugene Goodman confronts a pro-Trump rioter
Officer Eugene Goodman confronts Doug Jensen

Doug Jensen – QAnon

Doug Jensen, 41, from Des Moines, Iowa, appeared in one video showing a lone African American officer holding back the mob.

Mr Jensen has been arrested and faces five federal charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

In it, he can be seen chasing a police officer up a flight of stairs inside the Capitol wearing a shirt with the QAnon slogan “trust the plan”.

  • The Capitol police officer hailed as a ‘hero’

Mr Jensen later identified himself on his Twitter account, tweeting: “You like my shirt?” and “Me…” under images of him inside the Capitol shared by fellow QAnon supporters.

On his Twitter, Mr Jensen regularly expresses support for President Trump, engages with well-known QAnon accounts, and tweets QAnon phrases such as WWG1WGA – short for “where we go one we go all” – a rallying cry for the conspiracy’s adherents.

Nick Ochs – Proud Boys

Nick Ochs was arrested at an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, by the FBI, as he returned home from Washington DC.

He’s accused of unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds, after he posted a picture smoking a cigarette inside the Capitol building, tweeting: “Hello from the Capital lol”.

Mr Ochs describes himself as a “Proud Boy Elder from Hawaii”. The Proud Boys is an anti-immigrant and all male far-right group founded in 2016.

President Trump addressed this group specifically in the first presidential debate. In response to a question about white supremacists and militias he said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Richard Barnett

Richard Barnett is the man pictured with his feet on a desk in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He was also pictured outside the Capitol with a personalised envelope he took from her office.

He’s been arrested for unlawful entry, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and theft of public money, property, or records.

Richard Barnett, sits with one boot disrespectfully on a desk that is at the very centre of power in Congress.
Richard Barnett, sits with one boot disrespectfully on a desk that is at the very centre of power in Congress.

Mr Barnett is 60 years old and from Arkansas.

Local media reports say Mr Barnett is involved in a group that supports gun rights, and that he was interviewed at a “Stop the Steal” rally following the presidential election – the movement that supports Mr Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

Derrick Evans

Less than a month after he was sworn in as a Republican delegate in the West Virginia state legislature, Mr Evans filmed himself pushing through the crowd as he stormed the Capitol wearing what appears to be a motorcycle helmet.

“We’re going in,” he said in the now-deleted Facebook live stream. “We did it! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” he yelled, adding, “patriots inside, baby!”

His participation in the riot led lawmakers in his home state to consider cutting off his access to the West Virginia statehouse.

But within a week of the riot, he had resigned. He is facing federal charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Riley June Williams

The 22-year-old Pennsylvania woman, is accused of stealing a laptop from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The FBI has said that Ms Williams’ former romantic partner told them that she had appeared in pictures of the Capitol riot.

She allegedly had said that she hoped to sell the laptop to Russian intelligence agents.

An aide to Mrs Pelosi said the computer was only used for presentations. It has yet to be recovered by investigators.

What’s happening in court?

Federal cases are ongoing across the country and could lead to some significant prison sentences for those involved.

Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin said in February: “The scope and scale of this investigation in these cases are really unprecedented, not only in FBI history but probably [Department of Justice] history.”

Dozens of suspects have requested public defenders – lawyers provided by the government – leaving taxpayers to pay millions of dollars in defendants’ legal bills.

The cases have also flooded the Washington DC legal system, where semi-returned judges have been called upon to hear the influx of cases. At least one defendant has argued that their case should be heard out of Washington because they would be unable to get a fair trial there.

At least seven of the key suspects have told investigators that they travelled to the Capitol after President Trump told them to go in a speech that preceded the riot.

The so-called Q Shaman requested a pardon from Mr Trump before he left office, citing “the peaceful and compliant fashion in which Mr Chansley comported himself” during the riot.

According to a local ABC news station, a judge has agreed that Mr Chansley should be “provided food in line with a shaman’s strict organic diet” after he refused to eat the meals provided at the jailhouse.

Riley June Williams, the woman accused of stealing a congressional laptop, was ordered to stay off the internet after she allegedly attempted to delete her information and encouraged others to do the same.

Who else has been charged?

A man allegedly seen in viral photos carrying a Confederate flag in the Capitol during the riots was charged on 14 January.

Authorities in Delaware charged Kevin Seefried and his son Hunter with entering a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Man seen carrying a Confederate flag in the US Capitol
Man seen carrying a Confederate flag in the US Capitol

According to court documents cited by the Delaware News Journal, the duo got into the Capitol building through a window that Hunter helped break, before they “verbally confronted” US Capitol Police officers and the son took a selfie.

The Confederate flag is widely seen as a racist symbol as it was the banner of the slaveholding southern states that lost the US Civil War (1861-65).

A left-wing activist was also arrested after tweeting video of himself inside the US Capitol as protesters breached security.

John Sullivan, 26, was charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry or disorderly conduct. He claimed in media interviews that he was just “documenting” the rampage, though the affidavit notes he has no press credentials.

The court document says Mr Sullivan can be heard saying in a video he filmed of the Capitol riot: “Let’s burn this shit down.” He has identified himself in media interviews as a Black Lives Matter supporter, but rejects any association with antifa, a loosely affiliated group of far-left protesters.

Following the death of George Floyd last year, Mr Sullivan founded an activist group in Utah that advocates for racial justice. He was charged in July 2020 with felony riot and criminal mischief over civil unrest in Provo, Utah.

Man carrying plastic restraints in US senate
Man carrying plastic restraints in US senate

Two men who were allegedly pictured bringing plastic restraints into the Capitol were also arrested this month.

Authorities say Eric Gavelek Munchel is the individual seen carrying a number of plastic zip ties inside the Senate chamber. He was detained in Tennessee. Larry Rendell Brock, who is accused of entering the Capitol with a white flex cuff – a restraining device used by law enforcement – was arrested in Texas.

So far, neither has been accused of plotting to use the restraints, but face disorderly conduct and violent entry charges.

Officials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho
Officials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho

Other arrests include:

  • Thomas Webster – The retired New York City police officer is accused of assaulting an officer with a flag pole and his bare fists

  • Nicholas Rodean – The Maryland man was fired from his job after he was seen wearing his work ID badge to the riot

  • Aaron Mostofsky – The 34-year-old son of a Brooklyn judge was freed after posting a $100,000 bail. Pictures from the riot showed him wearing furs and a police tactical vest that he is accused of stealing

  • William Pepe – The New York City transit worker was suspended without pay after officials said he called out sick from work to travel to Washington and participate in the riot

  • Andrew Williams – The Florida firefighter was arrested after a picture online showed him wearing a Trump hat and pointing to a placard bearing the name of Democrat Nancy Pelosi

  • Josiah Colt – The Idaho man was pictured dangling from a Senate balcony after rioters stormed the chamber and is facing charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing

  • Adam Johnson, 36, of Florida, was photographed holding up the House speaker’s lectern and smiling during the Capitol siege. He has been charged with theft of government property and the lectern has since been returned

  • Jenny Cudd is the owner of a flower shop who once ran for mayor in Midland, Texas. According to officials, she posted a video where she said: “We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door”

  • Klete Keller, a two-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, has been charged after online sleuths spotted that he wore his Olympic jacket to the Capitol

  • Robert Sandford, a recently retired firefighter from a Philadelphia suburb, is accused of assaulting officers by throwing a fire extinguisher at them

  • Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, off-duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Virginia, are accused of trespassing and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds

  • Tam Pham quit his job as a Houston police officer after his police chief told reporters he had been part of the crowd that “penetrated” Congress. The FBI says they found deleted selfies from inside the Capitol during a search of his phone

  • Joseph Randall Biggs, 37, a Florida-based member of the Proud Boys, faces multiple charges including obstructing an official proceeding and unlawful entry

  • Patrick Edward McCaughey III, of Connecticut is accused of assaulting a police officer with a clear plastic shield in a melee that was caught on camera

  • Suzanne Ianni, 59, started anti-gay organisation “Super Happy Fun America” and travelled to DC with fellow Massachusetts resident Mark Sahady, 46, police say. They are both charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct

  • Jorge Riley, a Republican activist from California, resigned his position in the state assembly after images on his social media accounts showed him inside the breached Capitol

  • Samuel Camargo, 26, returned to Florida after the riot. He turned himself into Washington DC authorities two weeks later after returning the Capitol for the Biden Inauguration

  • Michael Joseph Foy, 29, is a Marine veteran from Michigan accused of assaulting officers with a hockey stick he was allegedly carrying during the riot

Leave a Comment