The Oath Keepers member says he feels “ashamed” of the actions on January 6
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers movement that entered the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot told a federal court judge and jury on Monday that by entering the building, he and his fellow Oath Keepers felt happy. But now he only feels shame.
Graydon Young, a 57-year-old resident of Englewood, Fla., who worked as a software developer and served in the U.S. Navy Reserves, pleaded guilty to riot charges in June of last year and is one of four members of the group who entered such prayers.
On Monday, Young told the judge and jury hearing the case against five Oath Keepersincluding Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the militia group, who has become a staunch supporter of then-President Donald Trump in the run-up to the November 2020 presidential election.
He said he got involved in the Oath Keepers movement because he believed there was a “better than 50-50 chance” that there was massive fraud in the election that Joe Biden won over Trump.
Young, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating the riot, told the jury that before the 2020 election he spent “too much time” on YouTube and Facebook looking at electoral fraud propaganda. He said he watched as much as two to six hours a day, and became “really invested” in what was going on, which he said clouded his judgment.
At one point, Young told the jury, he communicated directly with Rhodes, who told him it would not be “a stupid mission” to go to Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.
Young attended a rally addressed by Trump before the riot and then headed to the Capitol after being told that he and some fellow Oath Keepers would be escorting a VIP. The person his group was escorting was a “middle-aged” woman who had trouble keeping up, Young said.
Young said Kelly Meggs, an Oath Keepers leader from Florida and a defendant in the current trial, told him and his group to move quickly because they were going to rendezvous with Rhodes. Young testified that Meggs told him the Capitol building was broken into, and said something like “we’re in.
“I felt it was like a Bastille movement,” Young said, referring to the riot that overran a notorious Paris prison during the early days of the French Revolution. “I think it would be a similar kind of event for us.”
“It was exhilarating. I thought I was going to be part of an important event.”
Young said other rioters who stormed the steps of the Capitol building recognized their group as Oath Keepers “and the crowd parted and allowed us to go up the steps” as they pushed in a military style formation. He said that he and other Oath Keepers walked up the stairs with their hands on each other’s shoulders, but then became separated from each other once inside the building.
He testified that he sent a Facebook post at 4:22 p.m. the afternoon of the riot, declaring, “We stormed and entered.” Later that night he left Washington with his sister. The day after arriving at his residence in North Carolina, Young said he burned a helmet and vest he had taken at the riot as well as an Oath Keepers shirt. Then, he said, he and his sister were “solidly in freakout mode.”
He later deleted Signal, an encrypted messaging app used by Oath Keepers, from his phone and Facebook account.
Before the riot, Young said, he felt that he and his fellow Oath Keepers were engaged in “some kind of historical event to achieve a goal.” Today, Young told the judge and jury, “I feel very ashamed.”
Tearing up in front of the jury, Young said that after pleading guilty in his case, he had told the judge that he was very sorry for his actions, and that on a personal level he had fully and completely confessed.
Under questioning by a defense attorney, Young acknowledged that prior to the riot, he was not aware of any plan or explicit intent on the part of the Oath Guards to violate the Capitol and that the move to do so was merely a ” stupid, let’s do this thing. . . . We didn’t explicitly say that we were going to enter. We all just entered. It was spontaneous.”
Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Young said, “I think I acted like a traitor to my own government.”
Young acknowledged that he could still be sentenced to 72 months in prison for his guilty plea, though he expressed hope for a lesser sentence given his efforts to provide “substantial assistance” to investigators and the prosecutors.
He is one of four Oath Keepers who have pleaded guilty so far to sedition charges. In the first testimony during the current trial, Jason Dolan, another member of the group who entered a guilty plea, testified that while members of the group did not explicitly say to prepare for violence in the Capitoltheir conversations had an implicit subtext on the need to “fight. … It was a feeling”.
Last week, the trial of Rhodes and his co-defendants was paused for a couple of days after Rhodes tested positive for COVID-19. On Monday, however, Rhodes, wearing his eye patch and dressed in a suit, was back in the courtroom at a table with the other defendants and their lawyers.
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