Indiana Guitarist Is 1st Suspect To Plead Guilty In Capitol Riot
A photo of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., the night after rioters violently occupied the Capitol in January 2021. (Courtesy of Garret VanHoy)
A heavy metal guitarist from Indiana has become the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
He's expeceted from federal custody soon according to an order setting conditions for his release post to the public docket.
In court filings, U.S. attorneys charged Schaffer with obstruction of a Congressional proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
Schaffer has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to 30 years in prison, if convicted.
During a court hearing last month, U.S. attorneys said Schaffer was “radicalized” and brought bear spray to the Capitol.
Schaffer’s attorney Marc Victor said during the March 19 hearing that Schaffer was not a member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary organization.
However, a DOJ release says Schaffer admitted to being a “lifetime founding member” of the group.
Attorneys representing Schaffer were not immediately available for comment, but the firm representing him said it would share a release later today.
Schaffer was photographed wearing a tactical vest and a baseball cap that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.”
The DOJ characterizes the organization as a “militia of former law enforcement and military personnel” that has often “urged President Trump to declare Martial Law in order to prevent the Congress from certifying the Electoral College Results.”
A federal judge ruled last month that Schaffer should remain in federal detention due to his perceived community risk.
U.S. attorneys said Schaffer was radicalized and brought “a dangerous weapon inside restricted grounds.”
Showing a video interview of Schaffer from a November rally for former President Donald Trump, federal attorneys argued Schaffer contemplated violence before he engaged in the insurrection.
“They’re making their big move and it’s not going to work,” Schaffer said in the video. “If someone wants to bring violence, we’re ready for that.”
Later in the video, Schaffer claimed “there will be a lot of bloodshed.”
His attorney, Marc Victor, dismissed the allegations and pointed to another place in the video where Schaffer said he wasn’t looking for violence but would respond if provoked.
Victor argued the Indiana man was not responsible for the insurrection and was encouraged by former President Trump.
Trump was impeached, but not convicted, for his role in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
Indiana U.S. Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun, both Republicans, voted with their party to acquit.
“People have the right to believe the highest elected official,” Victor said during the hearing held via teleconference. “My client is not responsible for what happened on Jan. 6,” Victor said during the March hearing.
Schaffer, through his attorney, claimed to have been in the Capitol for 60 seconds, but U.S. Attorneys disputed that.
Officials say there is evidence linking Schaffer to the front of the crowd and that the founder of the metal band Iced Earth was one of the first to breach the building.
A photo released by the justice department shows the bearded Schaffer wearing an Oath Keepers baseball cap is misleading, his attorney said.
Victor claimed his client was photographed attempting to protect an elderly man, instead of inciting violence.
He admits his client “used bad judgment that day” by bringing pepper spray — more specifically “bear spray”— into the Capitol, but reiterated he was only intending to use it for protection.
According to documents published by the DOJ, Schaffer identified himself to members of the media and confirmed he was from Indiana.
“We’re not going to merge into some globalist, communist system, it will not happen. There will be a lot of bloodshed if it comes down to that, trust me,” he said, according to the documents. “Nobody wants this, but they’re pushing us to a point where we have no choice.”
Last July, Schaffer spoke with the YouTube channel MetalSucks in a now unlisted video voicing his distrust in government and denying the coronavirus’s true infection and hospitalization rates and death toll.
Schaffer does not have any prior convictions. Victor said his client did not suffer from mental health problems, alcohol or drug abuse.
This signals that federal prosecutors see him as a valuable cooperator as they continue to investigate the militia groups and other extremists involved in the insurrection on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral win.
This story has been updated.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.