9 Oath Keepers indicted for conspiracy in Capitol riot

9 Oath Keepers indicted for conspiracy in Capitol
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Federal prosecutors indicted six members of the Oath Keepers militia, who the government added as co-defendants to an existing indictment for three alleged Oath Keepers. Seven of the group were part of a tactical “stack” of people dressed in combat gear who pushed through crowds to enter the Capitol, the government said.

The nine were indicted by a grand jury on charges that included conspiracy to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding, destruction of property and restricted buildings or grounds charges. The indictment also charges two men with obstructing the investigation. 

Prosecutors say the group donned paramilitary gear and used military-style tactics — keeping hands on each other’s backs to communicate as they marched up the steps of the Capitol — and coordinated with other Oath Keepers before and during the attack, using apps like MeWe and Zello. 

The six charged Friday are Ohio residents Sandra Parker, 60, and Bennie Parker, 70, and Florida residents Kelly Meggs, 52, Connie Meggs, 59, and Graydon Young, 54 and North Carolina resident Laura Steele, 52. Thomas Caldwell, 65, Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, are also included in Friday’s new indictment, though the three had already been indicted by a grand jury in January.

The Oath Keepers are a loosely-organized collection of militia, prosecutors say, which focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first-responders. The group believes the federal government has been “co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” prosecutors say, and the group’s name comes from the oath of members of the military and law enforcement to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The complaint details an email sent January 4 from oathkeepers.org, with a subject line, “Call to Action: Oath Keepers Deploying to DC to Protect Events, Speakers & Attendees on Jan 5-6: Time to Stand!” The email noted that the group would have “well armed and equipped QRF teams on standby,” referring to the military acronym for “quick reaction force,” in case of a scenario “where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to [sic] assist him inside DC.” 

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The email also said, “As always, while conducting security operations, we will have some of our men out in ‘grey man’ mode, without identifiable Oath Keepers gear on. For every Oath Keeper you see, there are at least two you don’t see.”

Prosecutors described the group’s coordination prior to the attack. Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, allegedly arranged combat and firearms training for himself and others in Florida. Sandra and Bennie Parker traveled with Watkins and Crowl from Ohio to Washington, D.C., and discussed their plans in the weeks leading up to the attack.

Prosecutors say Meggs, who is a general manager at a car dealership, wrote in a Facebook message, “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!!   It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!!  He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying.  He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!  Sir Yes Sir!!!  Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”

Steele sent a five-page document that appeared to be an online application to the Oath Keepers of Florida on January 3, prosecutors said. In the document, she wrote, “I have 13 years of experience in Law Enforcement in North Carolina. I served as a K-9 Officer and a SWAT team member. I currently work Private Armed Security for [company name redacted]. I am a licensed PPS through the North Carolina Private Protective Services.”

Seven members of the group, including Watkins and Crowl, stayed at the same hotel the night before the attack. In the days leading up to January 6, Watkins, the self-described commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia, sent messages to people she labeled in her phone as recruits — including Bennie Parker. She advised Parker to pack khaki or tan pants, advised him that weapons were “ok” to bring, and told him they’d “convoy out to the Rally Point in Virginia” on January 5.

When Parker expressed concerns about safety and parking, she replied, “Parking is no issue, if you roll with the militia we have a guarded Rally Point.”

The group drew attention for their tactical “stack” formation, which experts quickly identified as a military-style strategy, and have been a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s sedition task force.

Watkins texted Parker on January 9, “I’ve been following FBI wanted list, seems they’re only interested in people who destroyed things. I wouldn’t worry about them coming after us.”

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