A man who had applied to be a member of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the Capitol riot Wednesday, making him the first of 16 defendants charged together in an alleged conspiracy to agree to a plea with the Justice Department, with him also agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation.
Graydon Young, 54, pleaded guilty at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday to two of the counts, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, laid out in a fourth superseding indictment issued against him and the other alleged co-conspirators in late May. The DOJ noted that Young “faces up to 20 years in prison for obstruction of Congress and up to five years in prison for conspiracy as well as three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.”
The DOJ said that Young “coordinated with others — some of whom are affiliated with the Oath Keepers — in advance of his activities in Washington” on Jan. 6, including when “Young and others discussed the need to maintain operational security and, accordingly, used encrypted messaging applications to communicate.” Prosecutors said that in early December, Young had emailed the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers a membership application and wrote that he was “looking to get involved in helping.” Young flew from Florida to North Carolina a couple of days before the Capitol riot, then drove with one of his alleged co-conspirators to the Washington, D.C., area the next day. On the morning of Jan. 6, Young “met up with some of the co-conspirators at an event near the White House,” and “in the early afternoon, Young marched with some of the co-conspirators toward the U.S. Capitol.”
Young “admitted to unlawfully entering the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol around 2:28 p.m. and, around 2:40 p.m., joining co-conspirators to walk up the east side of the building,” the DOJ said, adding that “Young and others walked in a ‘stack’ formation, with each person keeping a hand on the shoulder of the person in front. Young believed that when he entered the building, he and the co-conspirators were trying to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, specifically Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote. Young admitted to intending to stop or delay the Congressional proceeding by intimidating and coercing government personnel who were participating in or supporting the proceeding.” Young exited the Capitol just after 3 p.m., and just over an hour later, he posted on Facebook, “We stormed and got inside.” Prosecutors say Young deleted his Facebook account two days later.
The late May superseding indictment states that “members and affiliates of an organization known as the Oath Keepers were among the individuals and groups who forcibly entered the Capitol on January 6, 2021” and says that “the Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias” and that “they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel.” Court documents state that the Oath Keepers are led by “Person One” — identifiable as Stewart Rhodes.
Prosecutors noted that Young is from Florida, is the brother of co-defendant Laura Steele, and went by the “GenXPatriot” moniker. The superseding indictment contended that “from at least as early as November 3, 2020, through January 6, 2021, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere,” the 16 defendants “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown, to commit an offense against the United States, namely, to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, the Certification of the Electoral College vote.”
A lengthy plea agreement, signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler, Young’s attorney Robert Foley, and Young himself, stated that “your client shall cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly with this Office and other Federal, state and local law enforcement authorities identified by this Office in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant,” including potentially “answering questions, providing sworn written statements, taking government-administered polygraph examinations, and participating in covert law enforcement activities.” The agreement also said that “your client shall promptly turn over to the Government … any and all evidence of crimes about which your client is aware, all contraband and proceeds of such crimes, and all assets traceable to the proceeds of such crimes.”
The plea agreement also said, “Your client acknowledges that the riot that occurred on January 6, 2021, caused as of May 17, 2021, approximately $1,495,326.55 damage to the United States Capitol. Your client agrees as part of the plea in this matter to pay restitution to the Department of Treasury in the amount of $2,000.”
And the statement of offense, which Young agreed to in the plea agreement, stated that “Young was wearing a reinforced vest, helmet, and Oath Keepers shirt, and he carried a radio” when he entered the Capitol grounds and that “at least some of the co-conspirators and other individuals pushed against U.S. Capitol Police officers and the east Rotunda doors, eventually forcing open the doors.” The statement of offense added that “while inside the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Young, some of the coconspirators, and others pushed against a line of riot police officers guarding the hallway connecting the Rotunda to the Senate.”
Earlier this month, the Justice Department said that it had arrested 465 defendants so far, charging 130 people with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, with more than 40 alleged rioters charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to police.