A Virginia man with an apparent leadership role in the far-right militia group known as the “Oath Keepers” was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly “planning and coordinating” the January 6 breach of the US Capitol, the Justice Department said.
Thomas Edward Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Virginia is one of several members of the Oath Keepers named in a criminal complaint as having participated in the Capitol riots by President Donald Trump’s supporters.
He faces charges of conspiring to commit an offense, obstructing an official government proceeding, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.
Other members of the Oath Keepers who were also charged include Jessica Watkins, 38, of Champaign County, Ohio, who in the criminal complaint referred to herself on her Parler account as the “C.O. (commanding officer) of the Ohio State Regular Militia,” as well as Donovan Ray Crowl, also of Ohio.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the Oath Keepers as “one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the US,” which believes in “baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans.”
In a criminal complaint, investigators said Caldwell used Facebook to communicate with fellow members of the Oath Keepers and helped make hotel arrangements for their stay in the Washington, D.C. area.
He later posted photos from the siege, saying “Us storming the castle. Please share… I am such an instigator!”
Caldwell then urged members to storm state capitols. “Let’s storm the capitol in Ohio! Tell me when!” he wrote.
The FBI has been combing through well over 140 000 videos and photos to track down suspects who participated in the assault on the US Capitol, in which supporters of President Trump forced their way into the building, ransacked offices and documented much of the attack on social media.
Michael Sherwin, the top federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., has said he suspects hundreds will face charges in the investigation, which is unprecedented in size and scope.
As the arrests have mounted, many of the suspects are accused of having ties to far-right fringe groups such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, another right- group, or they are characterised as white supremacists or Nazi sympathisers.
One such person who will make his initial appearance in a federal court in New Jersey on Tuesday is Timothy Hale-Cusanelli.
Investigators said he is a US Army reservist with a security clearance whom they described as “a vowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathiser who posts video opinion statements on YouTube proffering extreme political opinions and viewpoints.”
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