Federal prosecutors have added another member of the Oath Keepers militia group to an indictment alleging conspiracy in the Capitol Riot. Kenneth Harrelson, 41, became the tenth defendant named as a co-conspirator in the case, and prosecutors have indicated that they could add even more in the future.
Seven of the group were part of a tactical “stack” of people dressed in combat gear who pushed through crowds to enter the Capitol, the government said. Prosecutors said the group donned paramilitary gear and used military-style tactics — keeping hands on each other’s backs to communicate as they marched up the steps of the Capitol — and coordinated with other Oath Keepers before and during the attack, using apps like MeWe and Zello.
Harrelson, whose charges were announced last week, was not part of the tactical “stack,” but was accused of planning with the group prior to the attack and interacting with other Oath Keepers at the Capitol. Court documents suggested he made multiple payments to “Oath Keepers, Inc.” in 2020 and organized or attended around 30 online meetings affiliated with the group, and organized one titled “dc planning call.”
During a court hearing Monday, he acknowledged he was a member of the Oath Keepers and that he was in Washington, D.C. on January 6, but denied being part of any riot.
The 10 have been indicted by a grand jury on charges that include conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and restricted buildings or grounds charges. The indictment also charges two of the men with tampering with documents or proceedings, alleging that they attempted to obstruct the investigation by unsending and deleting Facebook content.
During a hearing last week, before Harrelson was added to the indictment, a federal prosecutor said “at least one but potentially up to five or six or even a few more” defendants could be added to the conspiracy case, indicating the number of co-conspirators on the indictment could still grow into the teens. So far, at least 13 individuals associated with the Oath Keepers have been charged with federal crimes stemming from the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Six of the alleged conspirators were indicted last month: Ohio residents Sandra Parker, 60, and Bennie Parker, 70, and Florida residents Kelly Meggs, 52, Connie Meggs, 59, and Graydon Young, 54, and North Carolina resident Laura Steele, 52. Thomas Caldwell, 65, Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, were the first co-conspirators to be indicted by a grand jury in January.
The Oath Keepers are described by prosecutors as a loosely-organized collection of individuals and militia groups focused on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first-responders. The group believes the federal government has been “co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights,” prosecutors say. The group’s name comes from the oath members of the military and law enforcement take to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Of those indicted, at least five are former military members and one is a former law enforcement officer.
Court documents describe an email sent January 4 from oathkeepers.org, with a subject line, “Call to Action: Oath Keepers Deploying to DC to Protect Events, Speakers & Attendees on Jan 5-6: Time to Stand!” The email noted that the group would have “well armed and equipped QRF teams on standby,” referring to the military acronym for “quick reaction force,” in case of a scenario “where the President calls us up as part of the militia to to [sic] assist him inside DC.”
The email also said, “As always, while conducting security operations, we will have some of our men out in ‘grey man’ mode, without identifiable Oath Keepers gear on. For every Oath Keeper you see, there are at least two you don’t see.”
Prosecutors described the group’s coordination prior to the attack. Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, allegedly arranged combat and firearms training for himself and others in Florida. Sandra and Bennie Parker traveled with Watkins and Crowl from Ohio to Washington, D.C., and discussed their plans in the weeks leading up to the attack.
Prosecutors said Meggs, who is a general manager at a car dealership, wrote in a Facebook message, “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”
Steele sent a five-page document that appeared to be an online application to the Oath Keepers of Florida on January 3, prosecutors said. In the document, she wrote, “I have 13 years of experience in Law Enforcement in North Carolina. I served as a K-9 Officer and a SWAT team member. I currently work Private Armed Security for [company name redacted]. I am a licensed PPS through the North Carolina Private Protective Services.”
Seven members of the group, including Watkins and Crowl, stayed at the same hotel the night before the attack. In the days leading up to January 6, Watkins, the self-described commanding officer of the Ohio State Regular Militia, sent messages to people she labeled in her phone as recruits — including Bennie Parker. She advised Parker to pack khaki or tan pants, advised him that weapons were “ok” to bring, and told him they’d “convoy out to the Rally Point in Virginia” on January 5.
When Parker expressed concerns about safety and parking, she replied, “Parking is no issue, if you roll with the militia we have a guarded Rally Point.”
The group drew attention for their tactical “stack” formation, which experts quickly identified as a military-style strategy, and have been a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s sedition task force.
Watkins texted Parker on January 9, “I’ve been following FBI wanted list, seems they’re only interested in people who destroyed things. I wouldn’t worry about them coming after us.”
In a statement to CBS News, MeWe said, “MeWe has a strong Terms of Service that prohibits inciting violence, hate, bullying, harassment, illegal activity, etc. MeWe has an outstanding Trust and Safety Team that works hard every day to proactively investigate and take action against TOS-violators. Illegal activity can also be reported to law enforcement at MeWe’s discretion, and law enforcement can follow procedures in our terms to request information from us.”
The company also said profiles that appeared to be associated with defendants on this indictment are no longer on the app, and may have been removed themselves or taken down by the platform’s moderation team.