The Daily Beast
Jon CherryAn 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 ShieldWhile 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 ArrestedHours 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!”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.