WASHINGTON — Three people have now been formally indicted on conspiracy charges for the riots at the US Capitol. They are accused of coordinating their attack days before it happened with military-style planning.
Federal prosecutors said the three defendants are all members of the right-wing militia group, “The Oath Keepers." In an affidavit filed in the United States Court for the District of Columbia, Thomas Caldwell, Donovan Crowl and Jessica Watkins are accused of being integral parts of a larger conspiracy to stop, delay or hinder Congress' certification of the Electoral Vote on Jan. 6.
According to prosecutors, eight to 10 people seen in a Youtube video cited in court documents, outfitted in paramilitary equipment, are members of the anti-government militia group focused on recruiting military, law enforcement and first responders as their members. But the FBI said the Oath Keepers will accept anyone in their organization
The FBI claims to have a recording of Jessica Watkins, an Ohio bar owner, using a push to talk phone app, used much like a walkie-talkie, telling other suspected Oath Keepers: “We have a good group. We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan.”
According to the court documents, an unknown male responds, “We’ll see you soon, Jess. Airborne.”
Later in that same recording, an unknown male says, “You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.”
Prosecutors said the voice believed to be Watkins responds, “We are in the mezzanine. We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paintballs. But we are in here.”
That same court document goes onto state an unknown male responds to the person believed to be Watkins, telling her to be safe, and states, “Get it, Jess. Do your [expletive] thing," adding it was “Everything we [expletive] trained for.”
Prosecutors allege that in a social media post on Jan. 6, Watkins shared a photo of Crowl, who is from Champaign County, Ohio, where she lives.
Prosecutors said both are also members of the Ohio State Regular Militia. The court documents state Watkins identified herself as “C.O. [Commanding Officer] of the Ohio State Regular Militia.”
A third defendant in this case, 65-year old Thomas Caldwell from Clarke County, Virginia, is believed to have a leadership role within the Oath Keepers.
The FBI included 13 different Facebook messages, which they say show the three defendants “planned and organized Oath Keepers activities to challenge the election results” as far back as Christmas Eve 2020 - 13 days before the attack on the Capitol.
On December 30, Caldwell allegedly wrote, in all caps, "This is our call to action, friends! See you on the 6th in Washington, D.C. along with 2 million other like-minded patriots."
Prosecutors said the Facebook messages lay out how the alleged co-conspirators scouted out locations, gathered supplies, and organized the siege.
On December 31, Caldwell allegedly wrote on Facebook “It begins for real Jan. 5 and 6 in Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets.”
During a search of Watkins' home, FBI agents said they found what “appears to be directions for making explosives, authored by 'The Jolly Roger.'
Prosecutors said the bar Watkins operates is called “The Jolly Roger.”
But that wasn’t all the affidavit says investigators recovered. It states:
“Law-enforcement also located within WATKINS’ home protective and battle gear of the sort worn during the offenses of January 6th, 2021 (to include a camouflage hat and jackets; a backpack with medical/PPE supplies; a black tactical kit with medical supplies, radio, mini-drone and pepper-spray; a bag contaminating a helmet, radio and belt); cellular telephones; numerous firearms; a paintball gun with rubber-steel balls and a cylinder; pool cues cut down to baton size; and zip/cable ties, among other items).”
All three defendants are charged with conspiracy, obstruction, destruction of government property and entering a restricted building, bringing the total to seven different people now charged by the federal government with conspiracy to raid the US Capitol.