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Oath Keeper enters first guilty plea in Capitol attack inquiry, agrees to help government

  • April 16, 2021
Indiana resident Jon Schaffer, right, is shown inside the U.S. Capitol Building during the Jan. 6, 2021, rioting, according to the FBI. He pleaded guilty to two felonies Friday and agreed to help the government's case.

An Indiana man who wore an Oath Keepers Lifetime Member hat in the halls of Congress on Jan. 6 has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors and will cooperate in the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation. 

Jon Ryan Schaffer, a heavy metal guitarist from Indiana, entered two guilty pleas in federal court on Friday on felony counts of obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. 

Schaffer’s deal with the government, specifically the agreement to cooperate with investigators, marks a potentially key turning point for prosecutors who have been pursuing a broad conspiracy case against groups of rioters, including the paramilitary Oath Keepers group and the far-right Proud Boys organization.

In court documents last month, prosecutors said the ongoing conspiracy inquiry involves “a large number of participants.”

The larger riot investigation was described earlier this week by FBI Director Christopher Wray as perhaps the largest inquiry since the 9/11 attacks.

Prosecutors say Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray and positioned himself at the front of a crowd that pushed past four Capitol Police officers on the west side of the building. 

“Schaffer admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, forcing officers to retreat,” the Department of Justice said in a news release. “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.” 

This is the first guilty plea in the DOJ’s investigation into the Jan. 6. siege of the U.S. Capitol.

“The defendant in this case admits forcing his way into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 for the express purpose of stopping or delaying congressional proceedings essential to our democratic process,” FBI Deputy Director Paul M. Abbatte said in a news release. “These actions are disgraceful and unacceptable.” 

The FBI says Kenneth Harrelson is among 13 Oath Keepers who took part in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Schaffer is a founding lifetime member of the extremist group known as the Oath Keepers, prosecutors say. Separate from Schaffer’s case, the DOJ has charged 12 members of the Oath Keepers, many with conspiracy for planning together ahead of the attack. 

Schaffer has not yet been sentenced. The obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and the weapons charge 10 years in prison. He was originally arrested in January on six different federal charges related to his actions on Jan. 6, but the remaining four charges have apparently been dropped. 

A federal judge also authorized Schaffer’s release from jail. He will be permitted to travel within the lower 48 states and will not be allowed to carry any firearms, including ones he may already legally own. 

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