Federal prosecutors and Jon Schaffer's attorneys have asked a judge to set a sentencing date for the ICED EARTH guitarist in connection with his role in the January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol riot.
In a joint status report filed Tuesday (June 6) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the government and Schaffer's attorney asked a judge to schedule a sentencing for January or February.
The filing states: "On April 16, 2021, the Defendant pled guilty to an Information charging him with one count of Obstruction of an Official Proceeding in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2),and one count of Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1752(a)(1),(b)(1)(A).
"The Defendant 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.
"At this time, the parties are prepared to schedule a Sentencing Hearing. The parties respectfully request a Sentencing Hearing on a date in the time periods of January 22-26, 2024, or February 20-23, 2024."
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.
As part of his April 2021 plea deal, Jon entered into a cooperation agreement with the government.
According to CNN, prosecutors and Schaffer's attorneys agreed to recommend that he get between three and a half and four and a half years in prison, based on how fruitful his cooperation was with the government.
The government agreed not to oppose Schaffer's release during the sentencing phase.
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 55-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.