Oath Keeper pleads guilty to conspiracy for Capitol riot

Graydon Young, one of 14 Oath Keepers charged, pleads guilty on Wednesday as cases against rioters continue.

Members of the Oath Keepers militia group stand among supporters of US President Donald Trump occupying the east front steps of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 [File: Jim Bourg/Reuters]

A member of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group on Wednesday became the first to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy related to the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The man, Graydon Young, a 54-year-old resident of Engelwood, Florida, pleaded guilty to one criminal conspiracy charge and a second count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Young is one of the 14 members of the Oath Keepers group charged with crimes including conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for taking part in the assault on Congress and the only Oath Keeper to plead guilty to conspiracy so far.

Five people died in the riot, including a Capitol Police officer. Young is the brother of Laura Steele, 52, of Thomasville, North Carolina, who also faces charges in the case.

More than 480 people have been arrested and charged with taking part in the unrest, which saw rioters smash windows, battle police inside and outside the Capitol and sent lawmakers and then-Vice President Mike Pence into hiding.

The riot followed a fiery speech in which Trump repeated false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud. The rioters aimed to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Another defendant, Robert Reeder, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one misdemeanour charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

A judge on Wednesday is also scheduled to hand down the first criminal sentence to one of the Capitol rioters. Anna Morgan-Lloyd, 49, of Bloomfield, Indiana, agreed last month to plead guilty to a single charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Federal prosecutors have recommended three years of probation, a $500 fine, and 40 hours of community service.

“There is no evidence that the defendant poses a continuing threat to the public or that she will engage in similar conduct in the future,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memo, adding that a three-year probationary term will place her under government supervision “for a significant period of time”.

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol’s Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC after demonstrators breached security as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

Federal prosecutors said in court papers that Young on December 22 made plans to fly from Florida to North Carolina on January 4, with a return trip on January 8.

On December 26, prosecutors said, he wrote to a Florida company engaged in firearms and combat training: “I have joined Oath Keepers. I recommended your training to the team. To that effect, four of us would like to train with you.”

The indictment says Young and eight other indicted Oath Keepers pushed their way in a “stack” up the steps on the east side of the Capitol building.

The Oath Keepers are a loosely organised group of activists who believe that the federal government is encroaching on their rights, and “explicitly focus” on recruiting current and former police, emergency services and military members.

Reeder, a 55-year-old Maryland resident, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanour charge of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building. He faces a maximum of six months in prison.

During a court hearing, Reeder’s lawyer stressed that his client “didn’t touch anything” or “destroy anything” or “physically engage in any kind of resistance” while he was inside the Capitol.

The hearings come amid Biden administration plans to weed out extremism in government agencies and confront far-right threats.

A plan unveiled by the Justice Department on June 15 hopes to limit the spread of “extremist threats” while preventing recruitment and mobilisation by “extremist organisations” by cooperating with tech companies. It aims to investigate “extremist” views held by government and military members.

Reeder told the judge he used to work for the US Transportation Security Administration, but since he was charged, he was not been able to work and has been forced to rely on random “odd-jobs” such as painting a friend’s house. “My security clearance was revoked,” Reeder said.

He is due to be sentenced on August 18.

Source: News Agencies