A federal grand jury Wednesday returned an indictment against three members of the far-right Oath Keepers movement, accusing the trio of conspiring to disrupt Congress when they were part of the violent pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Thomas Edward Caldwell, Jessica Marie Watkins and Donovan Ray Crowl were charged last week by federal prosecutors. But the indictment was brought by a grand jury, signaling that jurors believed there was enough evidence the three committed a crime.
All three face charges of conspiracy, obstruction of official proceedings and destruction of government property among other charges. The maximum penalty for obstructing a government proceeding is 20 years in prison.
The conspiracy charges are among the most serious to be lodged by federal prosecutors arising from the deadly attack on the Capitol. The riot started by supporters of former President Trump was a bid to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory and left five people dead.
All three defendants belong to the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized anti-government organization. The Oath Keepers claim tens of thousands current and law enforcement officials are military veterans as members.
Ms. Watkins and Mr. Crowl were among a group of roughly 10 Oath Keepers wearing helmets and vests who moved in an “organized and practiced fashion” as they breached the Capitol, prosecutors say.
The three defendants initiated their communications in November and continued through January 19, 2021, when Mr. Caldwell was arrested, prosecutors say. They coordinated lodging options, logistics and other actions, according to court documents.
Mr. Caldwell allegedly said in a text message, “It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington, D.C., when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil…”
At least 150 people are facing federal charges stemming from the riot, the Justice Department said.