Yesterday the FBI arrested Oath Keeper leader Thomas Edward Caldwell of Clarke County, Virginia, on conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the planning and coordinating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He is the first to face conspiracy charges and, if convicted, faces at least 20 years in prison.
Caldwell allegedly organized and led a team of eight to 10 men, including self-styled Ohio militia members who were also taken into custody Sunday.
The government accuses Caldwell of saying on Facebook that he had secured rooms for several of his cohorts at a Ballston, Virginia, Comfort Inn near the Capitol that “would allow us to go hunting at night if we wanted to,” The Washington Post reported.
Caldwell allegedly sent the message to Jessica Watkins, a 38, from Champaign County, Ohio. Watkins, is a U.S. Army veteran.
Watkins is the founder and leader of the Ohio State Regular Militia, a group affiliated with the Oath Keepers, the FBI said.
Among Watkins, know conspirators identified by the FBI is Donovan Crowl, 50, a former U.S. Marine and a member of the Ohio State Regular Militia.
In one Post, Watkins points out Crowl in a photo saying: “One of my guys at the Stop the Steal Rally today.”
Watkins and Crowl face charges of entering a restricted building, willfully or knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct at the Capitol, and corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding a proceeding before the Congress.
The night of the insurrection, Caldwell allegedly posted a video to Facebook showing rioters inside the Capitol and wrote, “Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator! She was ready for it, man! Didn’t even mind the tear gas.”
In the FBI affidavit, an Agent asserts that Caldwell said: “Proud boys scuffled with cops and drove them inside to hide. Breached the doors. One guy made it to the house floor, another to Pelosi’s office. A good time,” according to the Post. “We need to do this at the local level. Let’s [sic] storm the Capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”
The FBI has arrested several Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group, along with at least four people suspected of being in the Oath Keepers and at least one associate of the Three Percenters.
Shortly after the election, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder, made an appearance on the conspiracy theory media site Infowars and threatened to seize Washington to keep Trump in office.
“We’ll also be on the outside of D.C., armed, prepared to go in, if the president calls us up,” he said, according to The New York Times.
In addition to Caldwell, Watkins, and Crowl, Robert Gieswein, 24, an affiliate of the Three Percenters from Woodland Park, Colorado, faces federal charges after authorities accused him of being among the early wave of Capitol invaders, according to the New York Times. He was photographed again inside the building with another suspect now known as Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine and member of the Proud Boys, who also faces charges, the Times reported.
After the insurrection, the FBI arrested Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr. 53, who previously aligned himself with the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, in Texas. Allegedly he planned “to take hostages.” Brock claimed he found the zip ties discarded on the floor and had prepared to hand them over to authorities, reports said.
And Guy Wesley Reffitt, a member of militia extremist group Texas Freedom Force, was arrested over the weekend and charged with obstruction after video showed him in a black helmet and a tactical vest outside the Capitol, reports said. Reffitt’s wife told authorities he belonged to the Three Percenters.
According to the Times, these are a few of at least 100 arrests, opened more than 300 investigations, and gathered about 140,000 media tips as law enforcement officials monitored social media for word of more unrest or coordinated attacks.
According to Michael Sherwin, a team of federal prosecutors is seeking to file more serious charges including sedition and conspiracy, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
“All of these extremist groups are being looked at in terms of their participation at the Capitol,” he told reporters.