Alleged Oath Keeper accused of bringing explosives to D.C. on Jan. 6

Washington Post photo by Michael Robinson Chavez.
Trump supporters scaled the walls on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol and gained access inside the building on Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. prosecutors leveled new accusations Friday against the leader of the Oath Keepers and alleged members who have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, saying one co-conspirator came to Washington with explosives and detailing allegations that a co-defendant kept a “death list” with the name of a Georgia election official.

The allegations came days before the Jan. 6 House committee is set to hold its next hearing Tuesday, which is expected to explore connections between extremist groups accused of playing key roles in the violence at the Capitol and former president Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election through false claims of voter fraud.

In a 28-page filing, prosecutors said a law enforcement search on Jan. 19, 2021, of the home of charged co-defendant Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Berryville, Va., recovered a document that included the words “DEATH LIST” handwritten across the top with the name of a Georgia election official and a purported family member of the official. Both were targets of baseless accusations that they were involved in voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, prosecutors said.

“That Caldwell made and kept a ‘death list’ that includes officials involved in the presidential election process — contemporaneous with his preparation to travel to Washington, D.C. — illustrates his actions during the alleged conspiracy and intent to oppose by force the transfer of power,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy A. Edwards Jr. of Washington wrote, referring to the seditious conspiracy charge against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and eight others including Caldwell.

On Friday evening, Caldwell attorney David Fischer forwarded a statement from his client rejecting the allegation, which prosecutors first raised in arguing for Caldwell’s pretrial detention in February 2021. A judge has since granted Caldwell conditional release.

“The DOJ’s claim that I intended to assassinate election workers is an absolute, 100% disgusting lie. Unfortunately, the DOJ has withheld from the public the evidence that exonerates me by hiding behind protective orders,” the statement said.

Separately, Edwards said the government has evidence that members of the group from Florida and Arizona allegedly staged semiautomatic rifles and other weapons in a suburban Washington hotel while a third team from North Carolina kept their firearms “ready to go” in a vehicle in the parking lot.

The prosecutor claimed that another Rhodes co-defendant, purported Florida “state lead” Kelly Meggs, had told a cooperating defendant who has pleaded guilty in a cooperation deal with the government that another Florida member of the group, Jeremy Brown, came to Washington with explosives in his recreational vehicle, which he left parked in College Park, Md. Brown, who has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor Jan. 6 counts, is not charged in the seditious conspiracy indictment but was described by prosecutors as an “unindicted co-conspirator.”

The government last September allegedly seized weapons from Brown, including two illegal short-barreled firearms from his home in Tampa and military grenades from “the same RV that Brown used to travel to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6,” the prosecutor asserted.

Standby counsel for Brown — a retired Special Forces soldier and onetime congressional candidate who is defending himself but has been detained pending trial on separate federal weapons charges in Florida — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The latest U.S. allegations were contained in a court filing required because prosecutors seek to introduce derogatory evidence at the Oath Keepers scheduled Sept. 26 trial that is not directly related to their charged offenses. Federal criminal rules usually bar such extraneous material but make an exception for relevant information that allegedly shows motive, the intent of a wider charged conspiracy or is otherwise “intrinsic” to a case.

Prosecutors asserted that the defendants face charges including conspiracy to corruptly obstruct Congress’s certification of the 2020 election results and to oppose President Biden’s swearing-in by force. Charging papers allege that the group coordinated travel, equipment and firearms and stashed weapons outside Washington, ready “to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction.”

“Caldwell’s travels to Washington, D.C., for Jan. 6, as evidenced by his statements, were informed by a belief that the election was fraudulent and that the lawful transfer of presidential power must be thwarted by force. His writings targeting election workers are directly relevant to this point,” Edwards said.

Edwards added: “Brown’s statements, firearms, and explosives are intrinsic to the co-conspirators’ charged offense as contemporaneous, direct evidence of the manner and means used by the co-conspirators to advance the goals of the charged conspiracy.”

In plea papers, three Oath Keepers defendants who have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges admitted to allegations that they were among a group that forced entry through the Rotunda doors after marching single file in a stack up the steps wearing camouflage vests, helmets, goggles and Oath Keepers insignia. They acknowledged some brought rifles to Washington that were stashed beforehand at a Ballston hotel and one in Vienna.

Rhodes, Caldwell and the remaining co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. Rhodes in an interview with The Washington Post in March 2021 said there was no plan to breach the Capitol. He has said the group staged firearms in Northern Virginia in case it was needed as a “quick reaction force” if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act and mobilized armed groups to keep himself in office. Rhodes’s attorney declined to comment Friday night about the government’s latest allegations.

The attack on the Capitol came after a rally outside the White House, at which Trump urged his supporters to march to Congress. The rioters injured scores of police officers and ransacked Capitol offices, halting the proceedings as lawmakers were evacuated from the House floor.

Separately, an attorney for Rhodes said he contacted the House Jan. 6 committee earlier Friday offering to testify before it on condition that he be allowed to appear live, in-person and unedited, not from jail where he is in pretrial custody.

Rhodes “is not interested in any games,” attorney Lee Bright said, and would talk about his group’s activities in the last election and on Jan. 6, waiving his Fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination. Bright said the committee appears to be considering Rhodes’s conditions acknowledged, as a practical matter, that such an appearance would probably likely a court order from the judge, input from prosecutors in his criminal case and transport by the U.S. Marshals Service.