100 Days After Capitol Riot, a First Among Defendants

Oath Keepers 'lifetime member' pleads guilty, will cooperate with government in probe
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2021 1:12 PM CDT
100 Days After Capitol Riot, a First Among Defendants
In this March 20, 2021, file photo, the US Capitol dome stands behind partially removed razor wire hanging from a security fence on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A guitarist for a heavy-metal band who was caught on camera dousing Capitol Police with chemical spray during the Jan. 6 riot just earned a big asterisk, 100 days after the attack: He's the first person to enter a guilty plea for two felony charges and agree to work with the government in its probe, reports Politico. During a proceeding presided over by US District Court Judge Amit Mehta, Jon Schaffer, 53, who also calls himself a "lifetime member" of the far-right Oath Keepers group, pleaded guilty to obstructing Congress' certification of the Electoral College vote, as well as to unlawfully entering a restricted building. Schaffer's deal requires him to "cooperate fully with the United States," which could include anything from handing over evidence on crimes to participating in interviews. The DOJ also agreed to place Schaffer in the witness protection program.

The Washington Post notes that Schaffer—who plays guitar and serves as lead songwriter for the heavy-metal band Iced Earth—was given the OK by Mehta to be freed from custody and travel while he awaits his sentencing and assists where needed. Schaffer turned himself in to the FBI in mid-January in Indianapolis. More than 400 people have so far been charged in the attack on the Capitol, but Schaffer's plea is described as "huge" news by a former federal prosecutor. "Clearly, they're trying to send a strong signal to other Oath Keepers and leaders that there's somebody in the organization that is going to be telling them everything they know about the organization," Peter Skinner tells the paper. A dozen other Oath Keepers members or associates have been hit with conspiracy charges. Prosecutors are recommending a prison term of 41 to 51 months for Schaffer. (More Capitol riot stories.)

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