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Wife of indicted rioter doubles down on rhetoric: It’s ‘our house’

Prosecutors confronted the witness with recordings of her husband speaking threats against then-Vice President Mike Pence.

WASHINGTON (CN) — The wife of a man charged with seditious conspiracy testified for his defense Monday, chalking up evidence of her husband's threats from last year's riot at the U.S. Capitol to "Tom being Tom."

Sharon Caldwell is not charged in connection with the Capitol riot and maintained in her testimony that she and her husband did nothing illegal that day.

“What Tom and I did that day was entirely peaceful,” she said.

She said they made their way to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after first listening to a speech at the Ellipse by the outgoing President Donald Trump. U.S. Attorney Louis Manzo played a video Sharon recorded while walking, in which Thomas can be heard saying he knows where Vice President Mike Pence lives and that he better do what his “punk ass” needs to do.

Asked what she was thinking at the time, Sharon said she was just having fun.

“At that time, I was 61 and Tom was 66,” she said. “Protesting … was new to us.”

Sharon said everyone around her was chanting “Stop the Steal,” so she chimed in and was having a good time.

“And Mr. Caldwell threatened Mr. Pence as part of your good time?” the prosecutor asked.

“I think, it’s ya know, Tom being Tom,” she said, adding that he may have been trying to joke with her, and she is not sure anyone else even heard him.

The prosecutor probed further, asking whether she truly believes he was joking about the vice president being assaulted. Sharon insisted she did.

Sharon said they were in Washington on Jan. 6 to have a good time and to hear Trump speak at a rally. She denied ever having plans to storm the Capitol or to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.

Thomas Caldwell is charged alongside the founder of the Oath Keepers and four members of his far-right militia, accused of orchestrating the insurrection on Jan. 6 as part of a larger plot to “oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power.” Prosecutors have brought counts for seditious conspiracy, saying the defendants communicated about their plans via encrypted chats, stocked up on weapons and traveled across the country to carry out the attack.

Prosecutors say Caldwell was in charge on Jan. 6 of a battalion of Oath Keepers stationed with weapons at a hotel in Virginia. If the force got word from the group's leader, Stewart Rhodes, according to the government's indictment, they were expected to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington in support of “operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”

Against this claim that Thomas Caldwell held a leadership role within the organization, the defendant meanwhile claims that he cannot even be considered a member of the Oath Keepers because he did not pay dues.

The prosecutor on Monday asked Sharon to review a recording she made outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. in which her husband says he wants to wipe his “ass” on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s doorknob. Sharon chalked it up again to Tom just being Tom.

The scene at the Capitol was peaceful when they arrived, she said. Sharon denied knowing that a riot was unfolding and said she did not see any barriers pushed over. She testified that she did not know the loud noises she heard at the time were flash-bang grenades.

When Sharon heard from the crowd at one point that Congress had left the Capitol, she said she assumed it was because the certification of the election was over, and Joe Biden was certified as president-elect.

In her video, meanwhile, Sharon can be heard saying Congress is gone “because they’re pussies.”

When asked on the witness stand Monday what she meant by that, Sharon replied, “I’m not really sure."

“But I will say many people in Congress are pussies today," she continued. "They need to develop a backbone.”

Asked why she said that, Sharon said there is a degree of freedom of speech that entitles her to such a right. “I can say whatever I want to say,” she said, “under the First Amendment.”

The prosecutor also grilled Sharon about why, if she thought Congress had completed the election certification, she and her husband pushed forward through the crowd toward the inauguration stage in front of the Capitol.

She mentioned that she had “never been up there,” and people were already up on the inaugural stage and climbing the scaffolding. The witness conceded that people typically would not have been allowed to just walk onto the inaugural stage, but insisted that people already were — so they just decided to join.

Calling it “our house," Sharon said the Capitol is for everybody. She added that she did not see the harm in going up there since she believed the election had already been certified.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, is presiding over the trial of Caldwell, Rhodes, 57, Kelly Meggs, 53, Kenneth Harrelson, 41 and Jessica Watkins, 40. Proceedings will resume Tuesday with more defense testimony.

A seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It requires prosecutors to prove to the jury that the accused Oath Keepers had an actual agreement to "overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force" the U.S. government.  

The Justice Department so far has charged more than 880 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Nov. 6, about 337 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, about 110 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 173 people have been sentenced to prison time.

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