Oath Keepers leader pleads guilty to U.S. Capitol riot charges, stored weapons for 'civil war'

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An Alabama man — and regional leader of the Oath Keepers — pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

As part of his plea agreement, Joshua James, 34, agreed to cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation.

Joshua James of Arab, Alabama, is pictured in a photo provided by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Joshua James of Arab, Alabama, is pictured in a photo provided by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Court documents describe James, a military veteran, as the regional leader in charge of the Alabama chapter of the Oath Keepers. The U.S. Department of Justice has described the group as large but loosely organized and includes some who are associated with militias.

Though the Oath Keepers have a broad membership, they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first-responder personnel.

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James in his guilty plea admitted that, from November 2020 through January 2021, he conspired with other Oath Keeper members and affiliates to use force to prevent, hinder and delay the execution of the laws of the United States governing the transfer of presidential power.

He used encrypted and private communications, equipped himself with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and was prepared to answer a call to take up arms.

Court documents detail James' activities in the days leading up to, during and after the riot:

Jan. 4, 2021: James and others travel to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. James brings a semi-automatic handgun and stores multiple firearms at a Virginia hotel.

Jan. 6, 2021: After learning that the Capitol has been breached, James travels with others to the building on golf carts. They drive around barricades, including marked law enforcement vehicles. He's wearing a black backpack, a combat shirt, tactical gloves, boots, a paracord attachment and an Oath Keepers hat and patches.

James and others unlawfully enter the Capitol together through the East Rotunda doors, court documents state, and once inside, he assaults a Metropolitan police officer, grabbing his vest and pulling him toward the mob as he yells, "Get out of my Capitol: This is not yours! This is my Capitol!"

An officer sprays him with chemical irritant, and he is expelled from the Capitol.

James and others leave the D.C. metro area later that day after hearing law enforcement officers are searching for them, according to court documents.

After the riot: In the weeks after the riot, James travels to Texas to meet with the leader of the Oath Keepers and other co-conspirators, according to the Department of Justice. They had amassed thousands of dollars worth of firearms, ammunition and equipment — some stored by James in sheds in Alabama — and were prepared to distribute the equipment to others "to engage in violence in the event of a civil war."

James was arrested on March 9, 2021. He and 10 other defendants were indicted on Jan. 12 in the District of Columbia on seditious conspiracy and other charges. The others have pleaded not guilty.

No sentencing date has been set for James. He faces up to 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and up to 20 years for obstruction of an official proceeding. He also faces possible financial penalties.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, with "valuable assistance," according to the DOJ, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama.

The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington and Birmingham field offices.

In the 14 months since the riot, more than 750 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states on charges related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 235 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.

Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or donna.thornton@gadsdentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Oath Keepers' Joshua James pleads guilty to U.S. Capitol riot charges