JON SCHAFFER Is Continuing To Cooperate With U.S. Capitol Riot Investigators; Next Status Report Due In March
January 26, 2023
ICED EARTH guitarist Jon Schaffer, who pleaded guilty nearly two years ago to his role in the Capitol riot, is continuing to cooperate with authorities while on pre-sentencing release.
In a status report filed on Tuesday (January 24) in federal court in Washington, D.C., Schaffer's attorney Andrew C. Marcantel of Attorneys For Freedom Law Firm wrote that Schaffer "remains on release under the supervision of the District of Columbia Pre-Trial Services Department. He has remained compliant with pre-trial release conditions.
"The Defendant's cooperation plea agreement was the first plea of the several hundred Capitol Riot cases and has involved cooperation in the largest conspiracy arising out of the incident that has been indicted to date. He has remained cooperative with law enforcement since his release, and his cooperation is ongoing."
The attorney went on to say that he "has discussed this Joint Status Report with counsel for the government, who is in agreement," and also asked for an opportunity "to file a joint status update on or about March 27th, 2023."
According to an April 2021 Justice Department press release, Schaffer has "acknowledged he is a founding lifetime member" of the right-wing Oath Keepers extremist group.
In January 2022, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta granted the U.S. government's request to share sealed materials from the case involving Schaffer's role in the U.S. Capitol riot case as discovery to the three main Oath Keepers cases.
Last November, Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other offenses in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A federal jury in Washington, D.C., also convicted Rhodes of obstructing an official proceeding and tampering with documents. He was acquitted of two other conspiracy counts.
In December 2021, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. accusing 31 members of Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — including Schaffer — of "conspiring to terrorize the District" on January 6, 2021, calling their actions "a coordinated act of domestic terrorism." According to CNN, the lawsuit cited the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a federal law created after the Civil War to protect civil rights and, as District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine noted, "to protect against vigilantes and insurrectionists."
"I think the damages are substantial," Racine told The Washington Post. "If it so happens that it bankrupts or puts these individuals and entities in financial peril, so be it."
The 84-page complaint described Schaffer as "a founding, lifetime member of the Oath Keepers." It went on to say: "Schaffer was criminally charged and indicted for his role in perpetrating the January 6th Attack. In connection with a promise to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in criminal cases related to the conspiracy to commit the January 6th Attack, Schaffer pleaded guilty to the entire Statement of Offense in the criminal action brought against him, which included two felony offenses: (1) trespass of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon and (2) obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. The criminal Complaint filed against Schaffer—as well as Schaffer's Plea Agreement and the accompanying Statement of Offense describing his conduct—are publicly available documents that are hereby incorporated into the Complaint by reference."
"No one bore the brunt of this gutless attack more than the courageous law enforcement officers including the men and women of the DC Metropolitan Police Department who went into the fire and violence with one objective in mind: remove the violent mob and restore our country's fragile democracy," Racine said at a news conference.
"The defendants, as you know, were not tourists, nor were they acting patriotically," he added. "They were vigilantes, members of a mob, insurrectionists who sought to crush our country's freedoms."
Last October, The Republic reported that process servers tasked with hand-delivering notice to Schaffer that the District of Columbia was suing him had been unable to notify the musician that legal action was being taken against him. At least 25 separate attempts to serve Schaffer at seven different addresses across three different states had been made but he had managed to evade process servers and private investigators who had been on his trail for months.
As part of his April 2021 plea deal, Jon entered into a cooperation agreement with the government.
Although Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, including engaging in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray, he pleaded guilty to only two charges: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; and trespassing on restricted grounds of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The first charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while the second carries up to a 10-year prison term.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer acknowledged that on January 6, 2021 he was in Washington to attend the "Stop The Steal" rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, which he believed were fraudulent. Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray, a dangerous weapon and chemical irritant used to ward off bears. When the rally finished, Schaffer joined a large crowd that marched from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress, presided over by Vice President Michael Pence, was in session to certify the electoral college vote results. Shortly after 2:00 p.m., members of the mob forced entry into the Capitol building, disrupting the joint session and causing members of Congress and the Vice President to be evacuated from the House and Senate chambers.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer admitted that after arriving on Capitol grounds, he walked past barriers intended to restrict access to the public and to a set of locked doors on the Capitol's west side. At approximately 2:40 p.m., Schaffer positioned himself at the front of a crowd that broke open a set of doors being guarded by four U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers wearing riot gear. Schaffer admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, forcing officers to retreat. Schaffer and others advanced toward five or six backpedaling USCP officers while members of the mob swelled inside of the Capitol and overwhelmed the officers. The officers ultimately deployed a chemical irritant to disperse the mob. Schaffer was among the people who were sprayed in the face, after which he exited while holding his own bear spray in his hands.
As part of the plea deal, Schaffer agreed to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in related criminal cases, according to CNN. In return for Schaffer's assistance, the Justice Department might later urge the judge to show leniency during his sentencing.
Also as part of the agreement, the Justice Department has offered to sponsor Schaffer for the witness protection program.
The 54-year-old musician was the first Capitol riot defendant to reach a plea deal.
The Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers distanced itself from Schaffer after his arrest, claiming he was not a member of the local group. But the national organization, which sold lifetime memberships for $1,200, had not commented on his alleged affiliation with the group.
At a November 2020 Donald Trump rally in Washington, D.C., Schaffer was videotaped walking behind a Florida couple, Kelly Meggs and Connie Meggs, who were accused of being among 10 members of the Oath Keepers to have played a leading role in the Capitol assault. According to federal authorities, Kelly and Connie Meggs plotted for weeks ahead of the attack, attended training sessions and recruited others. Kelly Meggs is the head of the Oath Keepers' chapter in Florida.
Following the initial reports that Schaffer was involved in the riot, his ICED EARTH bandmates distanced themselves from his actions. Singer Stu Block and bassist Luke Appleton later posted separate statements on social media announcing their resignations. BLIND GUARDIAN frontman Hansi Kürsch also quit DEMONS & WIZARDS, his long-running project with Schaffer. The allegations also apparently affected Schaffer's relationship with his longtime record label Century Media, which had released albums from both ICED EARTH and DEMONS & WIZARDS. As of mid-January 2021, the Century Media artist roster page did not list either band.
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