Indictment Alleges Oath Keepers Prepped For Weeks For Capitol Attack

Department of Justice
|
January 27, 2021 6:35 p.m.

Three members of the Oath Keepers militia group were indicted on conspiracy charges Wednesday over their allegedly planned effort to disrupt the congressional certification of the 2020 Electoral College tally. 

The Oath Keepers — Thomas Edward Caldwell, Donovan Ray Crowl, and Jessica Marie Watkins — were initially charged with conspiracy and other federal offenses last week. Among other things, prosecutors cited Facebook messages in which Caldwell allegedly described a hotel location that would “allow us to hunt at night.” 

But the grand jury indictment filed Wednesday quoted more communications between the Oath Keepers about their alleged plans — and also showed them directly motivated by former President Donald Trump. 

On Dec. 29, for instance, Watkins allegedly texted Crowl to ask if he was going to be in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 — the date of the Electoral College certification and, ultimately, the attack on the Capitol. 

When Crowl asked what was happening on that date, Watkins allegedly responded “Trump wants all able bodied Patriots to come.” She added in another message, “If Trump activates the Insurrection Act, I’d hate to miss it,” according to the indictment.  

Trump had in fact advertised the gathering, tweeting on Dec. 19 about how it would be a “wild” time, and subsequently hyping it for several days until, the evening beforehand, he announced that he would be speaking to the assembled masses in front of the White House. 

According to prosecutors, the Oath Keepers breached the Capitol after operating in a group and keeping in touch using the walkie talkie app Zello. 

Once inside, Caldwell allegedly received purported information on the whereabouts of members of Congress, in Facebook messages that read, “All members are in the tunnels under capital seal them in,” and “Go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps,” among other things. 

Watkins, who’s also been identified as the leader of a local militia called the Ohio State Regulars, allegedly began speaking with others about violence as early as Nov. 9, when she told a militia recruit, “I need you fighting fit by innaugeration[sic],” according to the indictment.

“Biden may still yet be our President,” she allegedly wrote to one recruit on Nov. 17. “If he is, our way of life as we know it is over. Our Republic would be over. Then it is our duty as Americans to fight, kill and die for our rights.” 

“I believe we will have to get violent to stop this,” Caldwell allegedly wrote to Watkins on Nov. 23, referring to “the future of our country” and mentioning the upcoming “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. on Dec. 12.

According to the indictment, Caldwell made plans in December to stay at an Arlington, VA hotel for the days surrounding Jan. 6, and wrote in a Dec. 20 Facebook post that the Jan. 6 marked a “CALL TO ACTION, FRIENDS!” 

That same day, Caldwell allegedly wrote to Watkins about another person, unnamed in the indictment, who planned on “bringing the tools if something goes to hell.” 

“That way the boys don’t have to try and schlep weps on the bus,” he allegedly wrote. “He’ll bring them in his truck the day before.” 

The following day, Dec. 31, Caldwell allegedly wrote on Facebook: “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… ” 

“We must smite them now and drive them down,” he commented on the site Jan. 1, according to the indictment. 

During the actual breach, the indictment describes Crowl and Watkins in a crowd of Oath Keepers moving “in an organized and practiced fashion.” 

Prosecutors have noted Watkins’ communication with others during the attack through the app Zello. At one point, an unidentified man appears to narrate a future kidnapping to Watkins, per the court documents: “You are executing a citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud.” 

“We are in the mezzanine,” Watkins allegedly responded. “We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here.” 

“Everything we fucking trained for,” an unidentified male responded, the indictment said. 

In addition to conspiracy against the United States, the indictment listed charges of obstructing an official proceeding, destroying government property, and entering restricted grounds. 

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