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‘I Am Such an Instigator’: Oath Keeper Leader Charged With Conspiracy in Capitol Riots

Pilar Melendez
·7-min read
Jon Cherry
Jon Cherry

An apparent leader of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group, was arrested in Virginia on Tuesday for his alleged role in plotting to attack the Capitol.

Thomas Edward Caldwell, 65, was arrested in Virginia on several federal charges, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, after he was allegedly involved in coordinating a plan to disrupt the Jan. 6 congressional session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory. During the siege, in which thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol, five people died and dozens more were injured.

According to a criminal complaint first obtained by The Washington Post, prosecutors allege Caldwell helped organize a group of at least eight people, who were seen “aggressively approaching an entrance to the Capitol.” The group was seen wearing military-style gear and helmets as they moved “in an organized and practiced fashion and force[d] their way to the ground of the crowd gathered around a door to the U.S. Capitol.”

Feds Track Down Bearded Proud Boy Seen Smashing Capitol Window With Police Shield

While hundreds of rioters have been arrested for their roles in the insurrection, the conspiracy charge against Caldwell is a first in the wide-ranging investigation. The charge, which is reserved for obstructing the operation of government, implies federal authorities are beginning to track coordination efforts in the days before the riots.

Prosecutors allege Caldwell began plotting with other Oath Keepers at least five days before the insurrection, citing a Jan. 1 message on Facebook in which he admitted he was looking for housing for several individuals at a Comfort Inn in Ballston, Virginia.

The hotel, which is eight miles from the Capitol, “would allow us to go hunting at night if we wanted to,” Caldwell said in a Facebook message to Oath Keepers member Jessica Watkins, according to the affidavit.

“I don’t know if Stewie has even gotten out his call to arms, but it’s a little friggin late. This is one we are doing on our own. We will link up with the north carolina [sic] crew,” Caldwell continues in the Jan. 1 post, apparently referring to Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

Watkins, a 38-year-old Army veteran member of the Ohio State Regular Militia, was arrested Sunday in connection with the riots. Authorities allege Watkins breached the Capitol with other members of the Ohio State Regular Militia, the far-right group she founded in 2019. Donovan Crowl, 50, a former Marine and another member of the Ohio military group, was arrested with Watkins.

Watkins’ militia is a subset of the Oath Keepers, which FBI agents describe as a “large but loosely organized collection of the militia who believe the federal government has been corrupted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

Texas Real Estate Agent Who Took Private Jet to Capitol Riot Is Arrested

Hours after the riots, the affidavit states Caldwell sent a video on Facebook that appears to be taken from inside the Capitol. “Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator! She was ready for it man! Didn’t even mind the tear gas,” he wrote on the video.

“Proud boys scuffled with cops and drove them inside to hide. Breached the doors. One guy made it all the way to the house floor, another to Pelosi’s office. A good time,” Caldwell said, according to the affidavit. Less than a minute later, Caldwell added, “We need to do this at the local level. Lets [sic] storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”

Caldwell is one of several rioters who were charged by the feds on Tuesday. Hundreds have been arrested since Jan. 6, including a Texas real estate agent who flew to the nation’s capital in a private jet, and Dominic “Spazzo” Pezzola, a Proud Boys member who allegedly smashed a window at the Capitol with a police shield.

The FBI announced that Suzanne Ianni, a 59-year-old Natick Town Meeting member, and 46-year-old Mark G. Sahady were taken into custody on Tuesday for their roles in the riots. Authorities allege Sahady is the founder of Super Happy Fun America, an anti-LGBTQ group known for its “Straight Pride” march in Boston. Ianni, who has ties to the group, allegedly helped organize bus transportation for hundreds of MAGA supporters for the Jan. 6 rally.

According to court documents, the group posted pictures on Twitter of both Ianni and Sahady on one of the buses with the caption, “Bus 1 of 11 coming to Washington DC. See you there!” The pair were also photographed together outside the Capitol.

The complaint also notes how Sahady was involved in the coordination of the Jan. 6 riots. “Let’s plan for a large rally at the inauguration. If Trump wins, we will be there to support him. If Biden wins, we will be there to oppose him and send a message that tyranny will be resisted,” Sahady tweeted on Nov. 16.

About a month later, Sahady tweeted that “it is important that millions of Americans show up” to D.C. on Jan. 6 “to support the legitimate President, Donald Trump, and show Democrats what they will be facing if they continue to try and steal the Presidency.” On New Year’s Eve, he tweeted that “we have 7 buses coming,” before reminding his followers on Jan. 4: “January 6 - Washington, DC - It Begins,” the complaint states.

<div class="inline-image__title">Gabriel Garcia</div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Criminal Complaint</div>
Gabriel Garcia
Criminal Complaint

A Miami Proud Boys member who unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat last year as a pro-Trump Republican candidate was also arrested for his role in the riots. Gabriel Garcia, a 40-year-old former Army captain, was charged with engaging in acts of civil disorder, entering restricted grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds after allegedly uploading several Facebook videos of himself inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“We just went ahead and stormed the Capitol. It’s about to get ugly,” Garcia says in one video, after showing Capitol Police officers trying to prevent a group of rioters from advancing to the Crypt. Around Garcia, other rioters can be heard chanting, “Our house!”

Maneuvering his way to the front of the crowd, Garcia then yells at the officers, “You fucking traitors! You fucking traitors! Fuck you!” A minute later, as tensions between the rioters and officers continue to rise, Garcia yells “USA! Storm this shit!”

In another video, Garcia shouts, “Nancy, come out and play!” in an apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Towards the end, he adds “Free Enrique,” referring to Enrique Tarrio, the Miami leader of a far-right group who was arrested two days before the riots.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Criminal Complaint</div>
Criminal Complaint

Prosecutors on Tuesday also unsealed charges against Nicholas DeCarlo, a Texas resident who wore a “Murder The Media” shirt to the riots and was photographed with Hawaii Proud Boy leader Nick Ochs and the so-called “QAnon Shaman” at the Capitol. Both Ochs and Jacob Chansley, the “Shaman,” have been arrested and charged in connection with the siege.

According to a criminal complaint, federal agents were tipped off to DeCarlo’s identity by an informant after he was seen in several videos and photos with Ochs. “Hello from the Capitol lol,” a photo of the pair posted on Ochs’ Twitter reads.

Ochs also posted a video on the social-media site Telegram that shows him talking with DeCarlo in Washington D.C. “Viewers...we have some good news:...We have just, uh, peeked through this window, and on the television, the headline reads that Congress stopped the vote when we stormed the Capitol,” Ochs says. “And, as we’ve been saying all day, we came here to stop the steal.”

<div class="inline-image__credit">Criminal Complaint</div>
Criminal Complaint

Ochs then insists “we were being sarcastic”—but DeCarlo replies: “Oh no, that’s what I came down here to do. We fucking did it.”

On Jan. 13, DeCarlo was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, admitting that he was at the insurrection, while claiming that he and Ochs were “working as journalists.” The complaint, however, notes the “DeCarlo is not listed as a credentialed reporter with the House Periodical Press Gallery or the U.S. Senate Press Gallery, the organizations that credential Congressional correspondents.” The Times said DeCarlo operates “Thunderdome TV,” a Youtube channel with fewer than 600 followers, with Ochs.

DeCarlo also claims to be an employee of “MT Media News,” which stands for Murder the Media News. During the insurrection, DeCarlo and Ochs were seen posing in front of a door inside the Capitol that had the words “Murder The Media” etched into it.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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