US charges 9 Oath Keepers with conspiring to storm Capitol

FILE PHOTO: A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/

(Leah Millis, Reuters, File)

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A federal grand jury indicted nine associates of the "Oath Keepers" militia on Friday for conspiring to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's election victory, adding to a list of defendants with ties to the far-right anti-government group.

In a superseding indictment, the U.S. charged six people allegedly connected to Oath Keepers — Ohio residents Sandra Ruth Parker, 60, and her husband Bennie Alvin Parker, 70, Graydon Young, 54, of Florida, Kelly Meggs, 52, and his 59-year-old wife Connie Meggs, also of Florida, and Laura Steele, 52, of North Carolina.

The remaining three defendants — Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl — were previously indicted for conspiracy in January. In the latest version of the indictment, the government filed additional charges against Caldwell for tampering with evidence by deleting his Facebook posts.

Caldwell and Watkins have pleaded not guilty. Crowl has not yet entered a plea.

The indictment alleges that the group conspired as far back as November to storm the Capitol, and extensively planned for a military-style attack that even contemplated staging an armed "quick reaction force" outside the city that would be ready to move if ordered by then President Donald Trump.

According to the indictment, Kelly Meggs is a self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers.

In a Facebook post in late December, Kelly Meggs posted a message about the upcoming Jan. 6 rally: "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***!!"

More than 200 people have been charged so far for their roles in the Capitol riots that left five people dead and caused members of Congress to flee.

The FBI has been investigating whether far-right fringe groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys conspired in advance to impede the election certification.

So far, at least 18 associates of the Proud Boys have been charged for roles in the riots.

Sandra and Bennie Parker appeared in a federal court in Ohio on Thursday and were released on bond pending their next appearance in a federal court in Washington, D.C. An attorney for Sandra Parker declined comment. An attorney for her husband did not respond to a request for comment.

The remaining defendants are due to appear in federal courts in Florida and North Carolina next week.

Attorneys for Young and Kelly Meggs declined comment. Attorneys for the others could not immediately be reached.

According to one of the criminal complaints filed in the case, some of the defendants did not seem too concerned they would face criminal charges.

"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," Watkins told Bennie Parker, according to texts obtained by the FBI.

"I'm sure they're not on us," Bennie Parker replied.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Jan Wolfe; Editing by David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021


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