WASHINGTON — The wife of a Virginia man charged as part of the Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy case testified Monday that Jan. 6 was a fun and peaceful day for her and her husband.
Sharon Caldwell, 63, of Berryville, Virginia, was called as a defense witness by attorney David Fischer, who’s representing her husband, 68-year-old retired U.S. Navy officer Thomas Caldwell. Caldwell was among the first three defendants arrested in the Oath Keepers case – although he has denied ever being an official member of the organization – and was indicted along with militia leader Stewart Rhodes in January on five counts, including three counts of conspiracy.
Caldwell’s attorney has framed the case from the beginning of the trial as an example of an over-aggressive Justice Department moving too quickly to arrest an elderly man based on faulty assumptions and sloppy investigative work. Prosecutors have sought to counter those assertions by showing jurors an ever-growing pile of messages from Caldwell about his connections with the Oath Keepers and other militia groups and his enthusiastic participation and planning for Oath Keepers events after the November 2020 election – including his efforts to find a boat to contribute to the militia’s armed quick reaction force stationed in Virginia on Jan. 6.
On the stand Monday, Sharon described her husband as a disabled veteran with chronic back problems who has had to get numerous surgeries over the years, including a full hip replacement earlier this year. She denied any efforts on his part to surveil weak points at the U.S. Capitol Building or scope out government offices during a “pre-strike recce” (reconnaissance) on Jan. 5. She also said she wore a tactical vest that day because of the number of pockets, and scoffed at the idea her husband came prepared to storm the Capitol.
“I understand you husband was wearing a special type of armor that day?” Fischer asked.
“If you’re referring to Depends, that’s what he was wearing,” Sharon answered.
Earlier in the trial, Fischer had described Jan. 6 as almost like a “date” for the Caldwells, and Sharon echoed that sentiment on the stand.
“I was having a good time,” she said. “I was 61. Tome was 66. This protesting thing was new to us. Everybody around us was chanting, ‘Stop the Steal,’ so I chimed in.”
On cross-examination, Sharon was faced with a number of statements she and her husband made on Jan. 6, including threatening language he used toward former Vice President Mike Pence while they were marching to the Capitol and a message he sent afterward saying, “If we’d had guns I guarantee we would have killed 100 politicians.” Caldwell also wrote to an associate bluntly, “Sharon and I assaulted the Capitol.”
“That’s just Tom being Tom,” she said, adding that her husband tended to exaggerate a lot.
She had slightly more trouble explaining comments she made in a video she recorded on the Lower West Terrace saying, “All the Trump supporters have gone through tear gas and smoke bombs and rubber bullets, but we’re all here.” Sharon said the “we” referred to “We the People” and denied ever personally experiencing tear gas or smoke bombs.
She did not, however, back down from another statement she made in the same video calling members of Congress “pussies” when they were evacuated during the joint session of Congress.
“I will say this: I think many people in Congress are pussies, even today,” she said Monday. “They need to develop a backbone and they need to develop a spine.”
More relevantly for Caldwell’s defense, on redirect from Fischer, Sharon denied they even knew any Oath Keepers had entered the building until they had breakfast with Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, who were arrested alongside Caldwell in January 2021, the following day.
“I was shocked they’d gone in,” Sharon said. “We had no intention of going in.”
As of Monday afternoon, it remained unclear whether Caldwell himself would take the stand to testify. Rhodes testified on his own behalf the prior week, but no other co-defendants in the case were expected to. The trial was set to continue Tuesday morning with the remaining defense witnesses, and was projected to go to jurors to begin deliberations as early as Thursday morning.
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