According to court records, prosecutors have lodged the first major conspiracy charge against an alleged leader of the militant Oath Keepers movement, claiming that the Virginia man was involved in “planning and coordinating” the Capitol breach earlier this month.
Thomas Caldwell, a 65-year-old from Virginia with a leading role in the right-wing paramilitary organization, was charged by the Justice Department with four charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, obstruction of an official proceeding, and “Violent entry or disorderly conduct.”
According to a law enforcement affidavit, Caldwell interacted in the riot alongside a group of eight to 10 people wearing Oath Keeper-emblazoned gear, who would “move in an organized and practiced fashion and force their way to the front of the crowd gathered around a door to the US Capitol.”
His relationships with two other charged right-wing extremists, Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, are also identified by prosecutors; they also allegedly tried to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential election and were part of the siege.
Oren Segal, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told CNN, “We are concerned that the arrests for the Jan 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol include some U.S. military reservists and veterans. Some right-wing extremist groups, particularly the anti-government Oath Keepers, have a long history of recruiting from current and former members of the military and law enforcement.”
He added, “Oath Keepers are part of the resurgent militia movement, which believes the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights. Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, what differentiates them from other anti-government extremist groups is their explicit focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel.”