Justice Dept. alleges that Oath Keepers militia, far-right Proud Boys coordinated plans for Capitol assault
A leader of the Oath Keepers militia was communicating with members of the far-right Proud Boys in the weeks leading to the U.S. Capitol attack, federal prosecutors allege, suggesting for the first time that the extremist groups had formed an alliance for the day of the deadly assault.
The disclosure came in court papers filed late Tuesday arguing that Kelly Meggs, the 52-year-old head of the Oath Keepers’ chapter in Florida, is too dangerous to release pending trial in Washington’s federal court. Meggs has been charged along with nine other alleged members of the Oath Keepers in a six-count indictment accusing them of conspiring to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop the counting of electoral college votes that would certify Joe Biden’s victory.
In their expansive investigation of the Capitol assault, which left five people dead, federal agents are examining the role far-right groups played in organizing and fomenting the riot. At least 16 alleged members of the Oath Keepers, described by federal authorities as a large but loosely organized anti-government militia, have been charged in the insurrection.
Prosecutors allege Meggs played a key role in the Oath Keepers’ plotting and financing of their actions in Washington, while coordinating his militia’s actions with other extremists in the hopes of disrupting Congress’ work counting electoral college votes.
Meggs revealed his coordination efforts in electronic communications to other members of his group, prosecutors said. On Dec. 19, for example, he bragged to an associate that he had “organized an alliance” among the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters, another far-right group. “We have decided to work together and shut this s— down,” he wrote.
A few days later, he wrote, “we have made contact with the [Proud Boys] and they always have a big group. Force multiplier.” He described how the two groups could coordinate attacks on demonstrators, particularly anti-fascists. “We will come in behind antifa and beat the hell out of them,” Meggs added.
At least 20 members of the Proud Boys have been indicted in the riot. The Proud Boys have been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for espousing white nationalist views as well as misogynistic and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The group, whose members have been known to engage in violent actions, describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.”
Meggs’ attorneys have argued that the manager of an auto dealership should be released on bail because there is no evidence he acted violently or destroyed property, and they say he protected a Capitol Police officer who was about to be assaulted by the mob. Lawyers for other alleged Oath Keepers have said that their clients had intended to battle antifa, a loose association of anti-fascist activists, not to break into the Capitol.
The Justice Department’s court filing, however, argues that as the Jan. 6 counting of electoral votes approached, Meggs was focused on overturning the results of the election by any means necessary.
Trump is “staying in” power, the Oath Keeper wrote an associate Dec. 26, according to messages prosecutors included in their filings. “He’s Gonna use the emergency broadcast system on cell phones to broadcast to the American people. Then he will claim the insurrection act.”
“That’s awesome,” the associate replied. “Any idea when?”
“Next week,” Meggs wrote. “Then wait for the 6th when we are all in DC to insurrection.”
On Jan. 6, a large group of Oath Keepers put on tactical gear, went to the Capitol and formed a “stack” formation at the building’s steps. At 2:40 p.m., they broke past police and entered the Capitol, allowing hundreds of other rioters to enter, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers and staff, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors wrote in their memo Tuesday seeking Meggs’ continued detention that the Florida man remained a danger. In the hours after the insurrection, prosecutors wrote, Meggs wrote in an Oath Keeper chat group that “we aren’t quitting! We are reloading!” During a search of his house, prosecutors added, authorities found three guns.
While gearing up for an insurrection, prosecutors said, Meggs was also expecting to provide some security for an undisclosed individual during events associated with former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally. That individual is almost certainly Roger Stone, a close Trump associate and self-described dirty trickster, whose political involvement stretches back to Watergate. A defense lawyer for an Oath Keeper argued last week that his client had come to town only to guard Stone, not engage in an insurrection.
In a related Oath Keepers case, prosecutors failed Wednesday to convince a federal judge to continue detaining Laura Steele, a 52-year-old alleged member of the group. Steele, a North Carolina security guard, has been held since her arrest last month on the broader Oath Keeper conspiracy indictment.
In ordering her release, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled that prosecutors failed to show she had played a substantial role in the Oath Keepers’ planning for Jan. 6, committed acts of violence or destroyed property. She will be detained at home and cannot have access to computers, tablets or other electronic communication devices.
In an unrelated case, U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden ordered the release pending trial of a 22-year-old Costa Mesa man accused of storming the Capitol. Christian Secor, a UCLA student, was widely photographed sitting on the chair of the Senate’s presiding officer and waving a Trump flag in the chamber. McFadden said he did not believe Secor was a risk to the community, and ordered him confined at home.
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