6 more linked to Oath Keepers charged in Capitol attack
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Six more people linked to the far-right Oath Keepers militia group have been indicted on charges that they planned and coordinated with one another in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Friday.
The case against those affiliated with the Oath Keepers is the largest conspiracy case brought by the U.S. Justice Department so far in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The six new people arrested this week are indicted alongside three others who were charged last month with plotting to undo President Joe Biden’s victory.
Authorities say the defendants prepared for weeks ahead of the attack, attended training sessions and recruited others. They donned tactical vests and helmets, moved in an organized fashion as they advanced on the Capitol and communicated with one another during the siege, prosecutors say. Several defendants formed a “stack” formation used by military infantrymen, marching the Capitol steps with their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, authorities said.
The new arrests include an Ohio couple, Sandra and Bennie Parker. The others facing charges are: Graydon Young of Englewood, Florida; his sister, Laura Steele of Thomasville, North Carolina; Kelly Meggs and his wife Connie Meggs, of Dunnellon, Florida.
Kelly Meggs, who authorities say is the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, wrote in a Facebook message in December: “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!!!,” according to court documents.
Later that month, authorities say Young reached out to a company that does firearms and combat training about a rifle class for four people, according to the indictment.
Authorities say Bennie Parker was in contact with an Oath Keepers member who was arrested last month, Jessica Watkins, leading up to the trip to Washington, discussing things like the uniforms and gear they would bring on Jan. 6. Authorities say Sandra Parker entered the Capitol while her husband stayed in contact outside.
On Jan. 9, Watkins told Bennie Parker by text she thought the FBI was only interested in people “who destroyed things,” according to the complaint.
“I’m sure they’re not on us see some pics but no militia,” Bennie Parker responded.
Another man charged last month in the case, Thomas Caldwell, suggested getting a boat to ferry “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River, authorities have said. Caldwell’s lawyer has called the indictment “imaginative.”
Messages seeking comment on the charges were sent Friday to lawyers for the defendants.
To date, federal charges have been filed in more than 200 cases involving the attack by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, including many with ties to far right groups like the Oath Keepers. Several members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, male-chauvinist extremist group that seized on the Trump administration’s policies, have also been charged with conspiracy and accused of working together during the siege.
Richer reported from Boston.