THOMASVILLE — Federal prosecutors expect to offer plea deals in the next two months to some of the members of a self-styled militia facing charges in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Meanwhile, the number of members of the Oath Keepers who have been charged keeps growing. A new indictment unsealed this week added four new defendants and revealed new details of the group’s electronic communications leading up to Jan. 6, including inflammatory remarks by the group’s founder warning of the chance of a “bloody, bloody civil war.”
During a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy said there have been “very preliminary” discussions with attorneys for most of the 16 people who now have been named in the updated indictment. One of the 16 is Laura Lee Steele, 52, of Thomasville, who was arrested in February.
The indictment has been updated three times since the first three Oath Keepers were charged. Steele was part of the first group added, and at that time the indictment was 21 pages long.
The latest indictment is 38 pages long and adds new charges or details to the allegations against most of those charged.
However, Steele’s role in the activities the document describes is small and has not changed since she was first charged. According to the indictment, she did not even join the Oath Keepers until shortly before Jan. 6.
The indictment says that members of the Oath Keepers organized to go to Washington with weapons and participated in the storming of the Capitol to try to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote that made Joe Biden president over former President Donald Trump.
New details in the indictment, reflecting in part electronic records recovered from defendants’ phones and other devices during the investigation, include comments made Nov. 9 in an online meeting by someone identified in the document only as “Person One.” Although that person has not been named in court filings, media reports have identified him as the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes.
During the Nov. 9 meeting, held on the GoToMeeting conference platform, Person One called on Trump “to do what needs to be done to save our country,” namely to invoke the Insurrection Act and “call us up as the militia.”
“Because if you don’t, guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war, and a bloody — you can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or fight,” Person One said.
Person One openly hoped for a violent clash with left-wing counterprotesters in Washington.
“If the fight comes, let the fight come,” he said. “I’m willing to sacrifice myself for that. Let the fight start there. That will give President Trump what he needs, frankly. … If they throw bombs at us and shoot us, great, because that brings the president his reason and rationale for dropping the Insurrection Act.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Rakoczy said evidence collected so far comes to about 1 terabyte — or 1,000 GB — of data, about two-thirds of which has come from devices seized in the investigation. The investigation is continuing, and more evidence is being collected, she said.