Oath Keeper first suspect to plead guilty in Capitol riot

Ruben Hill
April 17, 2021

A founding member of the right-wing Oath Keepers on Friday became the first person to plead guilty to taking part in the U.S. Capitol riot, signaling a new stage in the investigation of the deadly January 6 assault on the seat of American democracy.

Jon Ryan Schaffer pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and entering a building with a unsafe weapon.

Why it matters: It's the first guilty plea that federal prosecutors have secured in their sprawling investigation, and comes exactly 100 days after the January 6 siege. His plea was in the works for at least a few weeks, and recent court filings revealed that he met with federal investigators for several "debrief interviews" last month.

An email seeking comment was sent to an attorney for Schaffer.

The 53-year-old was not charged in the case involving Oath Keepers members and associates, who are accused of conspiring with one another to block the certification of the vote.

Schaffer, of Columbus, Indiana, was wearing a tactical vest and baseball hat that read "Oath Keepers Lifetime Member" on January 6, and acknowledged in his plea agreement that he is a "founding lifetime member" of the extremist group, prosecutors said. But those plea deals - and potential cooperation deals - have been slowed down while prosecutors waited for sign-off from senior Justice Department officials.

During Friday's hearing, Judge Amit Mehta talked through the plea agreement with Schaffer.

"Based on these debrief interviews, the parties are now engaged in good-faith plea negotiations, including discussions about the possibility of entering into a cooperation plea agreement aimed at resolving the matter short of indictment", the filing said. In return for Schaffer's assistance, the Justice Department might later urge the judge to show leniency during his sentencing.

Rioters clash with law enforcement as they attempt to enter the U.S. Capitol building on January 6.

Schaffer turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on January 18 and has been jailed since.

Some members of his Indiana-based band reportedly quit in protest of his role in the attack.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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