Friday, January 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jan. 6 witness says Oath Keepers stood out from crowd

In a sea of red that breached the walls of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, members of the Oath Keepers wore tactical gear and patches with the name of their far-right group.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A police officer testified for the government Tuesday that members of the Oath Keepers stood out from the crowd that laid siege to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

While the majority of people in the mob were in plainclothes, Marc Carrion, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police force, said there was an obvious contingent of people dressed in tactical gear including military-style vests and helmets, as well as patches bearing the name of the Oath Keepers group.

For Carrion, the armor signaled that the individuals had dressed themselves in preparation for a “firearms fight or battle.”

The charging papers against the 11 Oath Keepers indicted together a year after the insurrection is brimming with photos of such gear. But defense attorney William Shipley, who represents a Texas man named Roberta Minuta, noted Tuesday that his client is helmet-free in certain footage from the riot.

“Neither one of them were wearing helmets,” Shipley said, referencing Minuta and another man pictured beside him.

As for the vests the men can be seen wearing, Shipley insisted they look like ones that you can “hang stuff on while hunting.” Carrion did not agree with or deny the lawyer's characterization.

U.S. Attorney Louis Manzo asked the officer on redirect whether there are any hunting grounds near the U.S. Capitol. Carrion said no.

Another of the defense attorneys, Scott Weinberg, established through questioning that his Florida-based client, David Moerschel, was not wearing a helmet when he breached the Capitol.

Minuta and Moerschel are being tried alongside Edward Vallejo and Joseph Hackett. All four were indicted alongside Stewart Rhodes and several others on seditious conspiracy charges, but logistics issues and the guilty pleas of Joshua James and Brian Ulrich resulted in two separate trials.

The first trial ended late last month with convictions all around. Stewart Rhodes, who founded the Oath Keepers, was convicted of seditious conspiracy, as was one of his co-defendants, Kelly Meggs. They face up to 60 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta presided over Rhodes’ trial and the one that latest one, which began Monday after four days of jury selection. The current trial is expected to last six weeks with a break between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.

Apart from Officer Carrion, the jury heard witness testimony Tuesday from Kelsey Harris, an FBI special agent who described the defendants' communications on various group chats and on phone applications like Signal. The government claims these are evidence of the defendants’ seditious conspiracy to oppose the U.S. government by force.

To date, the government has charged more than 880 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Nov. 6, about 337 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and about 110 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 173 people have been sentenced to prison time.

In less than a week, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, will preside over a third seditious conspiracy trial at the Washington federal courthouse.

Five members of the Proud Boys, another right-wing group, are set to go to trial on Dec. 19 for seditious conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, will preside over those proceedings.

In the interim, the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection is expected to release its final report with criminal referrals.

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.

Loading
Loading...