ICED EARTH guitarist Jon Schaffer, who pleaded guilty 10 months ago to his role in the Capitol riot, is continuing to cooperate with authorities while on pre-sentencing release.
In a joint status update filed on Friday (February 18) in federal court in Washington, D.C., United States attorney Matthew M. Graves wrote that the “government reports that Defendant Jon Schaffer continues to cooperate with the government.” Prosecutors also asked for a May deadline for the filing of another status report in his case.
According to an April 2021 Justice Department press release, Schaffer has “acknowledged he is a founding lifetime member” of the right-wing Oath Keepers extremist group.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta granted the U.S. government’s request to share sealed materials from the case involving Schaffer‘s role in the U.S. Capitol riot case as discovery to the three main Oath Keepers cases. Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, and several of his deputies were charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the U.S. Capitol Riot. Rhodes and his co-defendants are accused of bringing small arms to the Washington, D.C. area; engaging in combat training to prepare for the attack; and making plans to stage quick-reaction forces to support insurrectionists.
In December, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. accusing 31 members of Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys — including Schaffer — of “conspiring to terrorize the District” on January 6, 2021, calling their actions “a coordinated act of domestic terrorism.” According to CNN, the lawsuit cites the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a federal law created after the Civil War to protect civil rights and, as District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine noted, “to protect against vigilantes and insurrectionists.”
“I think the damages are substantial,” Racine told The Washington Post. “If it so happens that it bankrupts or puts these individuals and entities in financial peril, so be it.”
The 84-page complaint, which can be found at this location, describes Schaffer as “a founding, lifetime member of the Oath Keepers.” It goes on to say: “Schaffer was criminally charged and indicted for his role in perpetrating the January 6th Attack. In connection with a promise to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in criminal cases related to the conspiracy to commit the January 6th Attack, Schaffer pleaded guilty to the entire Statement of Offense in the criminal action brought against him, which included two felony offenses: (1) trespass of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon and (2) obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. The Criminal Complaint filed against Schaffer—as well as Schaffer‘s Plea Agreement and the accompanying Statement of Offense describing his conduct—are publicly available documents that are hereby incorporated into the Complaint by reference.”
“No one bore the brunt of this gutless attack more than the courageous law enforcement officers including the men and women of the DC Metropolitan Police Department who went into the fire and violence with one objective in mind: remove the violent mob and restore our country’s fragile democracy,” Racine said at a news conference.
“The defendants, as you know, were not tourists, nor were they acting patriotically,” he added. “They were vigilantes, members of a mob, insurrectionists who sought to crush our country’s freedoms.”
As part of his April 2021 plea deal, Jon entered into a cooperation agreement with the government.
Although Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, including engaging in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray, he pleaded guilty to only two charges: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; and trespassing on restricted grounds of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The first charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while the second carries up to a 10-year prison term.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer acknowledged that on January 6, 2021 he was in Washington to attend the “Stop The Steal” rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, which he believed were fraudulent. Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray, a dangerous weapon and chemical irritant used to ward off bears. When the rally finished, Schaffer joined a large crowd that marched from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress, presided over by Vice President Michael Pence, was in session to certify the electoral college vote results. Shortly after 2:00 p.m., members of the mob forced entry into the Capitol building, disrupting the joint session and causing members of Congress and the Vice President to be evacuated from the House and Senate chambers.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer admitted that after arriving on Capitol grounds, he walked past barriers intended to restrict access to the public and to a set of locked doors on the Capitol’s west side. At approximately 2:40 p.m., Schaffer positioned himself at the front of a crowd that broke open a set of doors being guarded by four U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers wearing riot gear. Schaffer admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, forcing officers to retreat. 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. Schaffer was among the people who were sprayed in the face, after which he exited while holding his own bear spray in his hands.
As part of the plea deal, Schaffer agreed to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in related criminal cases, according to CNN. In return for Schaffer‘s assistance, the Justice Department might later urge the judge to show leniency during his sentencing.
Also as part of the agreement, the Justice Department has offered to sponsor Schaffer for the witness protection program.
The 53-year-old musician was the first Capitol riot defendant to reach a plea deal.
The Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers distanced itself from Schaffer after his arrest, claiming he was not a member of the local group. But the national organization, which sells lifetime memberships for $1,200, has not commented on his alleged affiliation with the group.
At a November 2020 Donald Trump rally in Washington, D.C., Schaffer was videotaped walking behind a Florida couple, Kelly Meggs and Connie Meggs, who were accused of being among 10 members of the Oath Keepers to have played a leading role in the Capitol assault. According to federal authorities, Kelly and Connie Meggs plotted for weeks ahead of the attack, attended training sessions and recruited others. Kelly Meggs is the head of the Oath Keepers‘ chapter in Florida.
Following the initial reports that Schaffer was involved in the riot, his ICED EARTH bandmates distanced themselves from his actions. Singer Stu Block and bassist Luke Appleton later posted separate statements on social media announcing their resignations. BLIND GUARDIAN frontman Hansi Kürsch also quit DEMONS & WIZARDS, his long-running project with Schaffer. The allegations also apparently affected Schaffer‘s relationship with his longtime record label Century Media, which had released albums from both ICED EARTH and DEMONS & WIZARDS. As of mid-January, the Century Media artist roster page did not list either band.
Jon Schaffer, the Indiana heavy metal guitarist with Oath Keeper ties who was the first person to plead guilty in the Jan. 6 prosecutions (obstructing an official proceeding + carrying bear spray into the Capitol), is still cooperating, per status report filed this morning pic.twitter.com/Vqoc9bUNZT
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) February 18, 2022
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