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Napa man pleads guilty to Democratic HQ bombing plot

Seeming to doubt the government's case against him, Ian Rogers nevertheless pleaded guilty Friday to three counts stemming from a plot to firebomb the state Capitol, Democratic Party headquarters and social media companies.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A Napa man pleaded guilty Friday to charges of planning to firebomb the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento and possessing explosives and a machine gun.

Ian Benjamin Rogers, 47, appeared remotely before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to take a plea deal that carries a sentence of 7 to 9 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Motivated by claims that the 2020 election was “stolen" from former President Donald Trump, Rogers was accused of conspiring with his friend Jarrod Copeland in January 2021 to bomb Democratic targets and the offices of Facebook and Twitter to try to keep Trump in office.

The two men hoped their attacks would start a “movement” and they contacted an antigovernment militia group in an attempt to gain support for their plans, according to an indictment filed July 7, 2021, which details messages they sent to each other.

“I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” Rogers wrote to Copeland on Jan. 11. “I’m thinking sac office first target.”

“I agree,” Copeland said, adding, “Plan attack.”

“Let’s see what happens after the 20th we go to war,” Rogers said, referring to Inauguration Day. 

Department of Justice officials say the pair identified their first target as the John. L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento, California, though they also discussed bombing Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.

Authorities arrested Rogers on Jan. 15, 2021, after police searched his home and business and found dozens of firearms, three fully-automatic weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs.

Police recovered a cache of guns, explosive devices and other materials from Rogers’ home and business, as well as a fake credit card labeled “White Privilege,” that says it “Trumps Everything.”

Investigators also found a sticker associated with the far-right extremist group Three Percenters, which holds extreme antigovernment and pro-gun stances. Rogers' association with that group was reported in-depth by reporter Scott Morris with the Vallejo Sun.

Rogers officially pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used in or affecting interstate commerce, one count of possessing five pipe bombs and one count of possessing an AKM-style rifle with under-fold stock.

Rogers admitted to viewing images of the Democratic headquarters on the internet and sending Copeland a map of the location. The pair also discussed a plan to burn down the building by throwing gas cans through the front windows and igniting the gasoline, officials say.

Rogers, who joined the hearing by video from Santa Rita Jail sporting a shaved head and beard, seemed reluctant to admit the government had a strong case against him.

“If the case went to trial, do you think the government would be able to prove each element of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt?” the judge asked, to which Rogers replied, "It's possible.”

“Well, my guess is that you've seen the evidence. Haven't they shown you the evidence?” The judge asked.

“Yeah, I’ve seen everything,” Rogers said.

Breyer continued. “So the question is, after seeing everything, do you think the government could be successful in establishing the elements of each offense?”

Rogers responded, “I don't know what to say to that.”

“I understand your concern,” Breyer said. “But I think the question is whether you're satisfied that the evidence that you have seen as to each offense establishes a criminal offense in your mind, whether they can prove that?

Rogers hedged, saying, “I can see how a jury would believe what the government is saying.”

Breyer then referred Rogers to his plea agreement, which remains sealed. Rogers said he had read the whole thing.

“Do you recall reading the whole paragraph which set forth your involvement in the events?” Breyer asked.

“Yeah, I read everything. I understand it. But it doesn't say everything about when I said those things,” Rogers said. "But I do agree I did communicate with my friend about those all those things."

"Is everything that's in the paragraph true and correct? Breyer asked, to which Rogers replied, “Yes.”

Breyer said, “You may take the plea," and scheduled sentencing for Sept. 30.

Copeland has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and destroying evidence. His sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

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