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New guilty plea ratchets up conviction count of Oath Keepers

William Todd Wilson copped to seditious conspiracy just one day after the charge was filed.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A former chapter leader of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty on Wednesday to seditious conspiracy in connection with last year's Capitol riot, making him the third of a dozen charged affiliates of the right-wing extremist group to do so.

Wilson inked the plea deal with the government on Wednesday, one day after the Justice Department unsealed court documents accusing him of conspiring with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and others in a plot to halt the lawful transfer of power on Jan. 6, 2021.

The 44-year-old military and law enforcement veteran admitted that he was among the county leaders of the Oath Keepers who began scheming with Rhodes through phone calls and encrypted messages as early as November 2020.

“In advance of January 6, Wilson on multiple occasions heard Rhodes discuss the potential need for Rhodes and co-conspirators to engage in force, up to and including lethal violence, in order to stop the transfer of power,” according to his statement of offense. 

With that understanding, Wilson said he decided to participate in Rhodes’ plan “to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to achieve this objective.”

Come the week of Jan. 6, Wilson drove from North Carolina to a hotel in Vienna, Virginia, where Rhodes had reserved and paid for several Oath Keepers’ rooms.

On Jan. 6, the day Congress was set to hold a ceremony that cemented the results of the 2020 presidential election, Wilson drove with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers leaders to Washington. Having “stored his firearms, ammunition, and combat gear in the hotel room, left his pepper spray and large stick in a [co-conspirator's] car parked nearby, and carried a pocketknife with him," Wilson said he was ready to retrieve those weapons “if called upon to do so.”

Around 2 p.m., they made their way past barricades and police officers to get closer to the Capitol. At one point, Wilson claims he heard Rhodes say that they were in the midst of a "civil war” and that Rhodes also “directed his followers to meet him at the Capitol.”

By 2:34 p.m., Wilson entered through the Upper West Terrace doors of the Capitol and became the “the first of the co-conspirators to breach the building.” 

Armed with a pocketknife and wearing a neck gaiter and beanie hat, he marched through the Rotunda and joined a mob trying to push open Rotunda doors from inside the building. Once that entrance was breached, Wilson used his cellphone to record video of the mob entering, which included 14 Oath Keepers co-conspirators who were among one of two groups that entered the building in a military-style “stack” formation.

“After Stack One entered the Capitol, Wilson made brief contact with some of the co-conspirators, to include James Dolan and Kenneth Harrelson, then followed closely behind [co-conspirators] Kelly Meggs and Caleb Berry into the Rotunda,” according to his plea.

Wilson left the building at 2:55 p.m., then met up with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers members in the northeast corner of the Capitol.

“Rhodes seemed pleased that Wilson and others had gone inside of the Capitol, stating to Wilson that ‘pissed off Patriots’ were engaged in the still-unfolding attack on the Capitol,” according to his plea.

They left the Capitol grounds around 5:00 p.m. and walked about a half mile away to the Phoenix Park Hotel. Rhodes then gathered Wilson and the others inside of a private suite where he called an unnamed person on speaker phone.

"Wilson heard ... Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power," according to his plea.

The person reportedly denied Rhodes's request to speak directly with Trump and after the phone call ended, Rhodes told the group, "I just want to fight."

Wilson’s plea make him the third member Oath Keepers to bypass a trial. Brian Ulrich struck his deal with prosecutors on April 29, about a month after Joshua James became the first to announce his plea agreement.

Questions loom over how long Wilson may have been cooperating with the government since prosecutors brought the charge against Wilson in an information, as opposed to an indictment, on Wednesday. Wilson was also only charged with two offenses, whereas his co-conspirators are each facing at least four offenses.

After Wilson’s plea agreement hearing, Mehta heard arguments from Wilson’s co-defendant, former Oath Keepers member Edward Vallejo, to him let get out of jail pending his jury trial set for Sept. 27.

Vallejo was not physically at the Capitol during the insurrection, but prosecutors say he was standing by at a hotel in Virginia as part of a “Quick Reaction Force” — ready to be summoned by his comrades at the U.S. Capitol should they need weapons ferried across the Potomac.

He has been incarcerated since being arrested on Jan. 13. He pleaded not guilty on Jan. 28 to seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.

As of April 6, nearly 800 people have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol. Approximately 50 defendants have been charged with conspiracy, including conspiracy to obstruct a congressional proceeding; conspiracy to obstruct law enforcement during a civil disorder; conspiracy to injure an officer, or a combination of the three.

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Categories / Criminal, National, Politics

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