Jon Schaffer — who is one of over 400 people who have faced federal criminal charges over their participation in the January rioting at the U.S. Capitol — has now pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators. His guilty plea is the first of its kind among the many Capitol riot-connected cases and could signal the development of serious cases against others who were involved in the violence. Schaffer is affiliated with the far-right militia organization known as the Oath Keepers, and others connected to that group have already faced criminal charges — including some that could add up to almost four decades in prison for a single defendant.
The Washington Post explains that, in addition to the information that Schaffer could provide boosting the government’s case against other defendants, prosecutors “hope” that his cooperation could inspire similar agreements. Broadly, investigators are hoping “to work up the chain of defendants to gather evidence and better understand the full scope of any planning and organizing of the violence — particularly among groups like the far-right Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys,” in the Washington Post description.
During the hearing in which Schaffer formally submitted his guilty plea, federal Judge Amit Mehta directly asked him if he was pleading guilty because he was “actually guilty,” and Schaffer replied that yes, he was. Schaffer’s plea deal doesn’t include complete freedom from the threat of prison — under the deal’s terms, Schaffer will still be facing a recommendation from the government for 41-51 months in prison, meaning from around three to four years behind bars. Eventually, a judge will decide his actual sentence, with the Post noting that “his sentence could be cut further if he proves valuable to the ongoing investigation of any other rioters or conspirators.”
Proceedings in the many Capitol riot cases have been proceeding swiftly throughout recent weeks. Samuel Montoya, who has done work for the far-right propaganda and extremism outlet known as InfoWars, was arrested in Texas just this week. Although he might like to claim some kind of journalistic reasoning for his presence at the Capitol, he can be seen gleefully celebrating the violence on footage that he himself captured. Meanwhile, a couple of other defendants — including one who tried to flee to Switzerland and another connected with the Oath Keepers group — were recently hit with orders for their continued detention ahead of their trial.
The rioters, of course, originally operated under the pretense of the lies from Trump and others that the presidential election had been rigged for Biden, and Trump and some of his allies have continued to spread these lies since the presidential transition. Mike Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow and a prominent Trump supporter, recently claimed that Trump would be back in office by August, which is obviously not going to happen — but the delusion nevertheless continues.