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US prosecutors claim militia members conspired in the Capitol riot | Crime News

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Three people linked to a far-right U.S. militia face federal charges related to a deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol.

Three people linked to a US militia in the states of Ohio and Virginia faced federal charges on Tuesday for the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, including the first conspiracy charge linked to the violation.

FBI investigators accused Thomas Edward Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Va., Of taking a leadership role in the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that believes in an “obscure plot” to rob Americans of their property. rights.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Oath Keepers as part of the “anti-government movement” and says it is often associated with the far right.

Caldwell faces charges which include conspiracy and violent entry or disorderly conduct. He was arrested on Tuesday. A conspiracy charge can be used when two or more people agree to commit a federal crime cooperatively.

The complaint (PDF) filed against Caldwell alleges he was involved in planning and coordinating the Capitol Breach with others, including Jessica Watkins, an Army veteran, and Donovan Crowl, both of Ohio.

“Records obtained from Facebook indicate that Caldwell was involved in the planning and coordination of the January 6 violation of the United States Capitol in which Watkins, Crowl and other members of the Oath Keeper militia were involved,” says the ‘affidavit.

the violent insurrection January 6, which left five dead, was led by supporters of President Donald Trump as Congress convened to certify the electoral victory of US President-elect Joe Biden.

Trump was dismissed last week for “incitement to insurgency” in connection with the riot, which US lawmakers say was spurred by the president’s repeated false claims of electoral fraud and an inflammatory speech he gave prior to the riot. incident.

Messages, messages on social networks

According to federal documents, Crowl and Watkins are members of the Ohio State Regular Militia and are paying members of the Oath Keepers.

A federal affidavit filed alongside the complaint shows messages between Caldwell and the others about the arrangement of hotel rooms in the Washington area. In a Facebook post from Crowl to Caldwell, Crowl states, “You are the COMMANDER man.”

Federal officials say Caldwell sent Facebook messages the next day regarding the Jan.6 attack on Capitol Hill.

A crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump climb through a smashed window as they storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021 [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

“Proud boys clashed with cops and led them inside to hide,” Caldwell’s post said, according to court documents. “I broke the doors. A guy came upstairs to the house, another to Pelosi’s office. A good moment.”

The FBI said in prosecution documents that the oath guards wearing helmets, protective vests and items bearing the group’s name were seen “moving in an organized and practiced manner and making their way to the front. of the crowd gathered around a door of the American Capitol ”. .

Federal investigators said they used social media posts and media interviews the suspects gave to identify them.

The Ohio suspects each face three counts: entering a building or restricted property; violent entry or disorderly conduct and obstruction of formal process.

Caldwell, who told the judge he was on disability after retiring from the US Navy, said he looked forward to proving at trial that “every charge is false.”

Watkins and Crowl, meanwhile, appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Tuesday.

Asked by a federal judge if she understood the charges against her, Watkins said, “I understand what you said. I don’t understand how I got them.

Crowl, meanwhile, stifled a laugh when asked if he understood the maximum penalties he was facing.

Both are being held pending detention hearings.


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