Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Capitol rioter linked to Oath Keepers leadership pleads guilty

James Breheny organized a meeting three days before the insurrection to prepare for "the show" and encouraged Stewart Rhodes, who founded the far-right militia, to attend.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A New Jersey member of the Oath Keepers who communicated with the leader of the far-right group in the months between the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court.

The single count of obstruction of an official proceeding to which James Breheny, 63, pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. In reaching the plea, the Woodland Park, N.J.-based Breheny avoids an additional charge for deleting a Facebook account that he had used to transmit photos of him in the crowd that breached the doors into the Capitol and inside the Rotunda.

Breheny entered his plea deal before U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, an Obama appointee, in a quick, procedural hearing. He joins approximately 570 others who have pleaded guilty to their role at the Capitol riot, 149 of which involve felony guilty pleas.

The complaint against Breheny details how he invited Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, to a leadership meeting of “multiple patriot groups” from the Mid-Atlantic area set for Jan. 3, with the intent to prepare for the “Stop the Steal Rally.”

“This will be the day we get our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups, share rally points etc. This one is important and I believe this is our last chance to organize before the show,” Breheny wrote in the invitation to Rhodes.

No cellphones would be allowed at the meeting, Breheny stressed, referencing “Faraday bags,” a container that blocks electronic signals and can be used to prevent remote surveillance.

Breheny’s links to the top of Oath Keeper leadership continued through the morning of Jan. 6, when Rhodes added him to a group chat titled “DC Op: Jan 6 21" on the encrypted messaging application Signal. In the chat, Rhodes introduced him under an alias, Seamus Evers.

“Added ‘Seamus’ who is coming in with a team from NJ, and who also has contacts with several militia leaders coming in,” Rhodes said in the Signal chat. According to charging papers, the chat also included other Oath Keepers who have since been convicted and sentenced for seditious conspiracy.

Rhodes was sentenced to 18 years in prison last month for his role in planning a seditious conspiracy to start a “bloody revolution” at the Capitol on Jan. 6 in order to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House.

Seven other members of the group — Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, Roberto Minuta, Edward Vallejo, David Moerschel and Joseph Hackett — have been sentenced in previous weeks for their participation in planning with Rhodes and the riot itself. Their sentences range from three to a dozen years in prison.

Charging papers show that after federal agents seized Breheny’s phone, they found several text messages bragging about his actions at the Capitol, including “I breached the Capital door,” “We breached the door Baby” and “Yup. Made it in,” signed with a laughing emoji.

Later messages from Jan. 6 show that Breheny not only communicated with Rhodes but also believed many of the conspiracy theories he espoused, posting on Facebook that the government had become tyrannical.

“The People’s Duty is to replace that Government with one they agree with,” Breheny posted.

The Justice Department has charged more than 1,000 people in the two and a half years since Jan. 6 over their actions at the Capitol riot. As of May, approximately 570 people have pleaded guilty and 485 have been sentenced. The FBI investigation is still ongoing, with approximately 221 unidentified individuals who committed violence on Capitol grounds.

Follow @@Ryan_Knappy
Categories / Criminal, Politics

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.