As Capitol riot indictments pile up, prosecutors are working their way up the chain of authority

Low-level insurrectionists are providing very useful information to federal investigators as they seek to avoid jail
Photo: Brett Davis/Flickr

First published at Daily Kos

As the number of participants in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection turning state’s witnesses against their fellow rioters keeps adding up, so does the evidence against their cohorts—particularly the people who conspired to lead the siege of Congress. Along the way, the evidence also piles up demonstrating that, contrary to apologists like Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald, these people brought guns and other dangerous weapons to Washington and were preparing to use them.

Two insurrectionists cut plea deals with prosecutors this week: Mark Grods, a 54-year-old Oath Keeper from Alabama, and Graydon Young, 55, another Oath Keeper from Florida. Both men are believed to be providing evidence in the conspiracy case against the 15 other Oath Keepers charged in the riot, one that prosecutors have been gradually building and may eventually encompass the group’s founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes.

One cooperating witness, Jon Ryan Schaffer, had already reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. However, his evidence was not considered key to the conspiracy cases against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Grods, one of the nine Oath Keepers who provided security for former Donald Trump aide Roger Stone at the “Stop the Steal” rally preceding the insurrection, is reportedly testifying in secret against his cohorts in the group. He pleaded guilty to two charges, conspiracy and obstruction of Congress’ certification of the Electoral College votes, at his hearing this week.

He may provide key evidence in the conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers, since he has admitted to stashing guns at a Washington hotel in preparation for the assault on the Capitol. Prosecutors have contended throughout their filings that Oath Keepers’ preparations included provisioning guns outside the city that could be delivered quickly to the Capitol.

Grods, who brought guns, combat gear and helmets, and radio equipment with him to D.C. for the siege, also admitted to taking part in paramilitary training efforts, and to recruiting people to join in the insurrection. Court records show he admitted to storming the Capitol with others, carrying a large stick while participating in the military-style “stack” formation used by the Oath Keepers to cut through the crowd.

Young, who entered his guilty plea last week, admitted that he was attempting to intimidate and coerce elected officials when he entered the Capitol with his fellow Oath Keepers. His plea suggested he would testify that his fellow conspirators believed they could obstruct Congress’ election certification by intimidating and coercing government personnel, which is why they forced open Capitol doors to allow the mob inside.

As Marcy Wheeler observes, these two cases demonstrate the hollowness of Carlson’s claims on Fox News that the informants whose identities were unknown were paid FBI infiltrators who were secretly orchestrating the Capitol siege; rather, it makes clear that most of them are other insurrectionists looking to have their sentences reduced.

For that matter, anyone succumbing to the dubious logic trotted out by Carlson, Greenwald, and others would probably have their illusions shattered by a viewing of the striking video published this week by The New York Times’ visual investigations team, which gives a full picture of the assault on the Capitol. Anyone who can come away from that still claiming that the event was nonviolent, the rioters were unarmed, and that it was simply a protest that got out of hand is someone who has lost touch with reality.

In the meantime, prosecutors continue to file new indictments, and FBI agents continue to make fresh arrests, including:

  • Ricky C. Willden. The man from Oakhurst, California, with a history of confronting and assaulting antifascists at demonstrations was arrested Wednesday. He is believed to have played a role in the successful breach of the Capitol’s security perimeter. Video shows Willden “raising his hand and spraying an unknown substance from a green can toward police officers who were standing guard,” according to court documents.
  • Timothy Hart: The Dayton, Ohio, man wore a bright “Q” logo shirt into the Capitol, and is believed both to have knocked down police barriers and to have waved some of the mob into the building. He also was recorded smoking a marijuana cigarette while inside the Rotunda. Outside the Capitol, he had shouted: “We already voted, and what have they done? They stole it! We want our fucking country back! Let’s take it!”
  • Chase Allen: The self-styled documentarian, originally from Massachusetts but currently living in Reno, Nevada, is accused primarily of destroying television and other broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press and other news operations who were forced to abandon their gear by the mob. Allen—who operates a livestreaming operation called The Allen Report on Facebook—claimed the worst thing he did on Jan. 6 was engage in cursing; however, prosecutors produced multiple photos of him destroying media equipment along with others on Jan. 6.
  • Joshua Haynes: The man from Covington, Virginia, arrested this week on multiple charges also was a participant in the destruction of media equipment, though unlike Allen, he actively boasted about it on social media. “I liked it too,” he commented on Facebook about a video of the vandalism. “I have already seen a report of it and I am in the video destroying the stuff but I’m wearing a mask,” he wrote. “I had to keep my face covered.” Haynes also entered the office of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and participated in its vandalization, then later boasted about that too: “broke lotsa stuff,” he wrote, “lol.”

Another indictee—Thomas Robertson, then an active officer with the Rocky Mount, Virginia, police department, who entered the Capitol with a colleague and later boasted about it to his colleagues on Facebook, claiming he had broken no laws—who had been granted pretrial release now faces a revocation of that release this week after FBI agents discovered that he has purchased an arsenal of over 30 guns and a stockpile of ammunition in the weeks after his arrest, and despite release conditions requiring him to abjure all weapons. Robertson and his colleague, Jacob Fracker, were both fired from the police force after their arrests.

The first search of his property after his release found him in possession of three Glocks, a Smith and Wesson handgun, and four other rifles, including one with a tactical scope. He also purchased some 34 guns from a gun dealer, but kept the guns there with the dealer. Investigators also found that he had constructed a booby trap intended to kill anyone who opened it.

Online, Robertson has been—like many of the insurrectionists—defiant of the law and unrepentant about his actions. When someone on Facebook asked him whether the other defendants were proud of what they did, Robertson responded, “I sure as fuck am.”

He then added:

I’ve said before. They are trying to teach us a lesson. They have. But its definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list, have your name smeared and address released by the FBI so every loon in the US can send you hate mail. I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon. … cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.  

Prosecutors said Robertson has “flouted his release conditions,” and asked that he be detained prior to his trial. Robertson did not respond to queries from the Roanoke Times.