Metal Guitarist Capitol Rioter Will Be First Insurrectionist To Reach Plea Deal With Gov’t

Supporters of President Donald Trump inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
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April 16, 2021 12:45 p.m.

A metal guitarist will be the first defendant in the Capitol insurrection case to reach a plea deal with the government, one that includes cooperating with authorities.

In a previously unannounced hearing Friday, a federal judge acknowledged a plea agreement between prosecutors and Jon Schaffer of the metal band Iced Earth. 

On Friday morning, a court filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia noted, “Plea Agreement Hearing set for 4/16/2021 at 11:00 AM via video conference before Judge Amit P. Mehta.” 

A criminal information document filed Tuesday lists two counts for Schafer: Obstructing an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The latter charge is refers to a canister of bear spray that Schafer brought with him to the attack. 

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During Friday’s hearing, Judge Mehta discussed the terms of Schaffer’s plea agreement with him. The defendant acknowledged the terms in a series of brief answers. Then Schaffer said he was “guilty” of both counts against him. 

The plea deal itself had not been entered into Schaffer’s court docket on Friday morning. But according to several reports from journalists who heard the initial minutes of the hearing, the deal includes an agreement to cooperate with the government. 

The plea talks between Schafer — who wore a “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member” cap during the attack — and the government were seemingly disclosed by mistake when a court filing marked “UNDER SEAL” was posted on the public court docket earlier this month. 

In the filing, the government described a series of debrief interviews it had performed with Schaffer and noted, “the parties are currently 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.” 

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