Judge calls Phoenix man facing charges in US Capitol riot 'a serious danger'

·8 min read
Edward Vallejo is shown outside the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in December 2021.
Edward Vallejo is shown outside the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in December 2021.

An Arizona man who the government says is dangerous and linked to the extremist group the Oath Keepers will remain in custody while he faces seditious conspiracy charges in the U.S. Capitol riot.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Boyle said the seriousness of the allegations facing 63-year-old Edward Vallejo of Phoenix — that he stood ready to deliver weapons on Jan. 6, 2021, if the call came from the leader of the Oath Keepers — favored detention, though he doesn't consider the U.S. Army veteran a flight risk.

"I'm convinced had (the call) had been given, you believe so passionately in the cause you would have responded," Boyle told Vallejo at a federal court hearing in downtown Phoenix on Thursday.

He called Vallejo "a serious danger at this time."

Vallejo, who is in quarantine, attended the hearing by telephone. He gave short, polite answers, calling the judge "sir," and letting his attorney do the talking.

Prosecutors say the longtime Arizona resident was a key member of a conspiracy to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power, helping to coordinate an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and supplies at a Northern Virginia hotel the day before the Jan. 6 riot.

They allege he was one of at least three "quick reaction force teams" from Arizona, Florida and North Carolina that stationed themselves at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia. Vallejo guarded the stash of weapons and stood ready to respond if called by the leader of the Oath Keepers, said Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Manzo.

But Vallejo's attorney, Debbie Jang, described the Army veteran as someone who played a minor role. He served in the military for two years in the 1970s before being medically discharged, and he suffers from asthma. He is involved in a nonprofit group that helps military veterans and is an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, she said.

"It is clear he does not pose any danger to society," she said.

After the court hearing, Jang said in an email that she is disappointed in the judge's ruling and maintains he is neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk.

"Every person, including Mr. Vallejo, has a right to a defense of their constitutional rights. Mr. Vallejo looks forward to his day in Court," she said.

The federal case involves 10 other defendants, including the founder of the Oath Keepers, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III. The extremist group recruits former members of the military and law enforcement.

The government says Rhodes and his co-conspirators planned to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by planning multiple ways to deploy force. They coordinated travel into Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with weapons, donned combat and tactical gear and were prepared to answer Rhodes' call to take up arms, the indictment said.

While some Oath Keepers breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, others remained outside the city as a quick reaction force to potentially transport firearms and other weapons into the city, according to court filings. The government has not introduced any evidence that Vallejo went into the Capitol, although he is alleged to have been outside the building at some point.

Federal court documents released earlier this week revealed more about the government's allegations against Vallejo:

Prosecutors say Vallejo and another Arizona team member — who the government didn't identify in court documents — arrived in Washington around noon on Jan. 5 and met up with the Oath Keepers at a nearby hotel. They used Signal, an encrypted message app, to communicate.

Court filings say Vallejo messaged Florida team member Kelly Meggs on Jan. 5, asking, "Please text location so we will know where to begin in the morning." The 52-year-old Meggs sent him the address for the Comfort Inn.

Meggs and his Florida team dropped off at least three luggage carts full of gun boxes, rifle cases and suitcases filled with ammunition with their quick response team. A second quick response team from North Carolina was made up of four men with rifles "ready to go" in a vehicle in the hotel parking lot.

Prosecutors allege that bags and large bins of weapons, ammunition and essential supplies were wheeled in, according to the filing. Surveillance photos purportedly show Vallejo and another man wheeling bins into the hotel the day before the Capitol riot.

The government says Phoenix resident Edward Vallejo is shown in this surveillance footage, bringing in large bins of supplies to a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, to support the co-conspirators’ plot and 
the January 6 Capitol attack.
The government says Phoenix resident Edward Vallejo is shown in this surveillance footage, bringing in large bins of supplies to a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, to support the co-conspirators’ plot and the January 6 Capitol attack.

The group prepared for a siege to last through Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, prosecutors said.

On Jan. 6, Vallejo and another team member spoke about their intentions on a podcast.

"The American people are going to be told today that we have liberty and justice for all, or they're going to be told 'F--- you.' OK? And if we're told, 'F--- you," that's going to be the declaration of a guerrilla war,'" Vallejo said.

Text messages continued between Vallejo and the leader of the Oath Keepers throughout the day and as it became clear that the Electoral College certification of the election was going to proceed as required by law, according to the federal filing.

As a crowd gathered on the Capitol grounds and headed toward the building, Rhodes texted Vallejo that "Pence is doing nothing," adding that the "patriots are taking it into their hands. They've had enough."

Around 2:30, Vallejo messaged that he was "back at the hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist." He sent another message minutes later that said the quick response team was standing by.

"Just say the word," he wrote.

The riot halted the official proceedings of Congress while law enforcement tried to restore order and clear the Capitol.

As the Capitol riot was happening, prosecutors said Vallejo also encouraged violence in Arizona, sending a text to someone that said, "Have you secured the Arizona Capitol yet? Waiting on you slacker."

Prosecutors say Vallejo and his co-conspirators continued plotting their next steps. Around 7:30 p.m., they say Oath Keepers leader Rhodes messaged, "Thousands of ticked off patriots spontaneously marched on the Capitol...You ain't seen nothing yet."

Vallejo messaged back, "We'll be back to 6am to do it again. We got food for 30 days."

The following morning, on Jan. 7, prosecutors say Vallejo sent a message shortly before 6 a.m. that he was "departing for Recon now." He asked Rhodes to call him.

"I'll depart when cleared by my Commander, sir," he wrote.

Later that day, prosecutors say Vallejo and another Arizona team member reappeared on the same podcast they spoke on the previous day. Vallejo said he got up before dawn, went to the Capitol and then returned to the hotel to take care of business.

Vallejo's unidentified team member said on the podcast that they were prepared to support the Constitution and honor their oaths.

When asked if he was going to return to Arizona, Vallejo said, "I don't know. We've got to figure out what happens on the 20th."

Jan. 20 is the day Joe Biden was to be inaugurated president.

Vallejo noted for the podcast that he was "never done...I'm waiting for orders from Stewart Rhodes."

Prosecutors say the men continued plotting further actions against the government. They say Rhodes purchased thousands of dollars worth of firearms, ammunition and equipment and went to Texas.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, said weeks before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, that his group was “armed, prepared to go in if the president calls us up.”
Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, said weeks before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, that his group was “armed, prepared to go in if the president calls us up.”

At one point, Vallejo tried to meet up with Rhodes in Texas. But court filings are unclear as to whether that actually happened.

Rhodes messaged Vallejo on Signal on Jan. 11, asking "Ed, what's your 20? You in TX?"

Vallejo said he had been delayed. Rhodes said he was in the Fort Worth area and Vallejo replied, "CU there Goodspeed sir."

In late January 2021, prosecutors say the co-conspirators tried to destroy evidence of their conspiracy and discussed securing their communications.

Rhodes messaged Vallejo on Jan. 24, 2021, that, "Ed, keep in mind this is NOT a secure chat. Contains at least one turncoat snitch. Keep that in mind. Please confirm you got this."

Vallejo said he got the message and that he was innocent.

"(i)f you ever need me for ANYTHING I am on call at your service, Sir," he wrote, according to the court filing.

A year later, Vallejo and 10 others were arrested after a lengthy government investigation. He faces four federal charges, all felonies: seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct Congress, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.

The judge on Thursday said Vallejo will be transferred to Washington, D.C., to await trial.

Vallejo's wife of 34 years attended Thursday's court hearing and left after without speaking to the media.

Adam Kokesh, who serves with Vallejo on a nonprofit group called Homefront Battle Buddies, also attended the court hearing and spoke to the media afterward in support of his friend.

He said Vallejo was aware for several months that the FBI was investigating him. Kokesh said he was present when Vallejo was served with a search warrant last summer while the two were at a 10-acre homestead Kokesh owns in the small town of Ash Fork. After reading the warrant, he said Vallejo unlocked his cell phone and turned it over.

"He's absolutely not a threat to the community," Kokesh said. "It's a shame."

Kokesh said he anticipates there will be a second detention hearing after Vallejo is transferred to Washington, D.C.

"My focus now is getting him the legal support to ensure his release," he said.

Reach the reporter at anne.ryman@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8072. Follow her on Twitter @anneryman.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: US Capitol riot: Edward Vallejo of Phoenix 'a serious danger' says judge

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