9 Oath Keepers indicted for conspiracy in Capitol riot

9 Oath Keepers indicted for conspiracy in Capitol
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Federal prosecutors announced indictments for nine members of the Oath Keepers militia, including six who were recently arrested and charged Friday with conspiracy in the Capitol riot. 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, obstruction of an official proceeding and restricted building or grounds charges.

Prosecutors say the group used military-style tactics — keeping hands on each other’s backs to communicate as they entered the building — 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, were also charged 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 said Steele sent a five-page document that appeared to be an online application to the Oath Keepers of Florida on January 3. 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 pants and told him where to meet on January 6. 

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.

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