Oath Keeper charged in Capitol riot conspiracy pleads guilty

Oath Keeper charged in Capitol riot conspiracy pleads guilty
·4 min read

A 55-year-old Florida man has become the first defendant charged with conspiracy to plead guilty to charges stemming from the January 6 Capitol riot. Graydon Young, an Oath Keeper who had been facing six charges including destruction of government property and civil disorder, pleaded guilty Wednesday to just two charges he had been facing for conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Young became the second member of the Oath Keepers — which prosecutors define as a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias — to plead guilty in the Capitol riot investigation, but his was the first guilty plea from someone charged in the 16-person Oath Keepers conspiracy case.

The case is the largest single conspiracy case in the Capitol riot investigation, and has been a focal point for prosecutors attempting to discern the extent of planning that went into the attack on the Capitol.

In pleading guilty, Young also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a chance at a lower recommended sentence, which a judge said Wednesday could be between 63 and 78 months, approximately 5 to 6 and a half years, with an estimated fine ranging anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 and a likely $2,000 in restitution. He had been facing a maximum possible sentence of 5 years for the charge of conspiracy and 20 years for the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Graydon Young, a 54-year-old Florida man, has become the first Oath Keeper charged with conspiracy to plead guilty to charges stemming from the January 6 Capitol riot. / Credit: Department of Justice
Graydon Young, a 54-year-old Florida man, has become the first Oath Keeper charged with conspiracy to plead guilty to charges stemming from the January 6 Capitol riot. / Credit: Department of Justice

Young's cooperation could yield testimony used in the case against his co-defendants, one of whom is his sister. An indictment against Young suggests he has been affiliated with the Oath Keepers since December and was involved in both recruitment and training ahead of the January 6 attack. Prosecutors said that during the riot, he was part of a so-called "stack" formation that maneuvered through the crowd and into the U.S. Capitol.

The news of Young's guilty plea came on a day busy with plea agreements for Capitol riot defendants: Robert Reeder, 55, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to one misdemeanor count of Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building, and Anna Morgan-Lloyd pleaded guilty to the same charge during an afternoon hearing, where she was also sentenced to 36 months' probation and no jail time.

Morgan-Lloyd became the first Capitol riot defendant to be sentenced for her charges. Eight defendants have now pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the riot.

The other Oath Keeper who has pleaded guilty, Jon Schaffer, 53, said he was a founding lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, and has also agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors in their investigation.

According to the indictment in Young's case, Young's involvement with the Florida Oath Keepers chapter began December 3 when he emailed a membership application to the chapter, telling them he was "looking to get involved in helping."

Weeks later, prosecutors alleged he was helping to recruit others and taking steps to organize combat training for the group. According to the indictment, on December 19, Young wrote to a Facebook group: "Please check out Oath Keepers as a means to get more involved. Recruiting is under way."

Graydon Young is the brother of one of his co-conspirators, Laura Steele, pictured here in a photo included in court documents. / Credit: Department of Justice
Graydon Young is the brother of one of his co-conspirators, Laura Steele, pictured here in a photo included in court documents. / Credit: Department of Justice

The following week, he wrote to a Florida company that conducts training on firearms and combat, and said that he'd trained with the company before but had since joined the Oath Keepers. "I recommended your training to the team," he wrote.

Young is the brother of one of his co-conspirators, Laura Steele, 52, and evidence presented in the indictment suggests Young encouraged his sister to join the group.

#repost #Insurrection #Capitolriots #Trump supporters singing our National Anthem while attacking our #democracy #Photojournalism #documentation #history #usa #43senators #14thamendment #video rstevensbrody pic.twitter.com/n8Blv0tE3w

— Robyn Stevens Brody (@rstevensbrody) February 14, 2021

Steele emailed a membership application to the Florida Oath Keepers on January 3. In her email, she wrote, "My brother, Graydon Young told me to submit my application this route to expedite the process."

On January 6, prosecutors said Young and 10 of his other co-defendants donned "battle gear" and maneuvered through the crowd using a "stack" formation, which experts have identified as a military-style strategy, to forcibly enter the Capitol.

The group moved through the Capitol Rotunda, prosecutors said, and then joined a mob pushing against a line of police who were attempting to guard the hallway that led to the Senate.

Jessica Watkins, a U.S. Army veteran also charged in the 16-person indictment, told those in the mob around her to "push, push, push," prosecutors said, and said that the officers "can't hold us."

Young eventually retreated after officers used a chemical spray to disperse the crowd, and he left the building around 3:05 p.m.

In addition to charges stemming from his actions at the Capitol, Young was also charged with tampering with documents or proceedings. Prosecutors said that two days after the siege, he deleted his Facebook account.

The other 15 alleged Oath Keepers charged in the conspiracy case have pleaded not guilty.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct Graydon Young's age.

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