Capitol Riot was historic, spontaneous
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Florida man who stormed the US Capitol along with other members of the far-right Oath Keepers testified Monday that he believed they were taking part in a historic “Bastille-type event” reminiscent of the French Revolution.
Graydon Young, a government witness at the inflammatory conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, said he saw parallels between the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and the French people who “rose up and defied kings and tyrants” more than two centuries ago.
“People were obviously attacking the government and its function,” Young said during the fifth week of the trial.
Young said he came to Washington to fight “the corrupt elements of the administration” preparing to confirm President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
“I think I acted like a traitor,” he added.
Young, 57, from Englewood, Fla, was the first member of Oath Keepers to plead guilty to conspiracy charges related to the attack on the Capitol. He was the second group member to testify under a federal prosecutor’s cooperation agreement at the trial.
Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and four others are charged with a seditious conspiracy, which authorities have described as a conspiracy to attempt the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Republican incumbent Donald Trump to Biden, the Democrat who won the 2020 election. to stop.
Young pleaded guilty in June 2021 to conspiring to obstruct the joint session of Congress to confirm the Electoral College vote.
Defense attorney James Lee Bright, one of Rhodes’ attorneys, urged Young to point to evidence of a criminal conspiracy or an “explicit plot” by the Oath Keepers to attack the Capitol.
“That was implicit to me at the time,” Young said. “I didn’t specifically say, ‘Let’s commit a crime,’ but I thought it was implied.”
“It was spontaneous,” Bright said.
“That was it,” Young said.
The others on trial are Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio; and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Fla.
Jason Dolan was the first member of Oath Keepers to testify at the trial. Dolan, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges, said members of the group stand ready to use “any means necessary” on Jan. 6 to stop confirmation of Biden’s election victory.
After exiting the “Stop the Steal” rally at which Trump was speaking Jan. 6, Young said he initially joined Meggs to escort a rally speaker’s relative. But their “goal” changed, Young said, when Meggs learned the crowd had breached the police barricades at the Capitol.
“We all knew there was potential for a historic event at the Capitol,” Young said.
According to a, Young was wearing a helmet and a walkie-talkie as he and other Oath Keepers walked up the stairs on the east side of the Capitol in a military-style “stack” formation Court records accompanying his guilty plea. After entering the building, Young and others bumped into a line of police officers guarding the corridor connecting the Rotunda to the Senate, the filing said.
“We stormed in and came in,” Young later posted on Facebook, before deleting his account.
Young said he was scared and ashamed when he realized how much trouble he was in after the riot. He choked when a prosecutor asked him why he decided to cooperate with authorities.
“It’s really embarrassing,” he said.
Young, who served in the US Navy Reserve for 11 years, said he was a Trump supporter “really fueled” in 2020 by a constant barrage of political videos on YouTube. Young’s sister in North Carolina told him about the Oath Keepers. He joined the group less than two months before Jan. 6, thinking “it could be an effective way to get involved.”
Young sent an encrypted message to fellow Oath Keepers on December 20, 2020, saying “something more is needed” than marches and protests. When asked what he was referring to in that message, Young said, “Something more effective and powerful than just the protests.”
Young believed Trump’s baseless claims of a stolen election, blamed a “corrupt government” and felt a sense of “desperation and hopelessness” as January 6 approached.
The jury also heard testimony Monday from a police officer who crossed paths with members of the Oath Keepers during the Capitol riot. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said none of the rioters offered to help him during a videotaped encounter, belying a defense claim that Oath Keepers were trying to protect the officer from other rioters.
Justice Department prosecutor Alexandra Hughes asked Dunn what rioters could have done to help him and other officers during the Jan. 6, 2021 siege.
“Just leave the building,” Dunn said.
Dunn admitted to telling the FBI in May 2021 that he allowed rioters in tactical gear to stand near him while he guarded a stairwell. He said interactions had taken place in the Capitol crypt area and he wasn’t sure if the rioters standing in front of him were Oathkeepers.
The jury saw video of a separate encounter in which Dunn interacted with Oath Keepers in military gear near a staircase in the second floor rotunda.
“I won’t let you come this way,” Dunn recalled saying in the rotunda.
The video also caught Dunn telling the rioters that they wanted “an all-out war” and injured dozens of officers.
“You want to kill everyone,” Dunn said.
Dunn said he had not heard from the Oath Keepers before January 6 and only later learned he had interacted with members of the group.
More than 900 people have been charged with federal crimes over their conduct on Jan. 6. Rhodes and his four allies are the first Capitol defendants to face trial for seditious conspiracy.
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