Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer got more publicity than he could ever ask for today, with the news of his guilty plea in connection to the U.S. Capitol riots earlier today. Among the major outlets covering the story are the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Politico to name a few.
Schaffer plead guilty to two charges (he was originally charged with six). The charges include obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress, and trespassing on restricted grounds of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The two charges face a maximum sentence of 30 years, but CNN reports that prosecutors and Schaffer's defense agreed to recommend between 3.5 and 4.5 years of sentencing in prison, based on his cooperation. The decision is ultimately up to federal Judge Amit Mehta.
Schaffer will be allowed to be released during sentencing on the following conditions:
- He must submit to court supervision in Indiana.
- He must surrender his passport and international traveling documents
- He must stay out of Washington D.C., outside of court hearings and attorney meetings
- He will be permitted to travel within the US with notice to pretrial services
- He cannot possess any firearms or explosive devices, even legally. Firearms must be removed from his home.
According to the plea agreement "Schaffer admitted to being among the first individuals to push past the damaged doors and into the Capitol building, forcing officers to retreat. Schaffer and others advanced toward five or six backpedaling USCP officers while members of the mob swelled inside of the Capitol and overwhelmed the officers. The officers ultimately deployed a chemical irritant to disperse the mob. Schaffer was among the people who were sprayed in the face, after which exited while holding his own bear spray in his hands."
Schaffer is the first person of 400 arrests from the Capitol riots to plea guilty. as the Justice Department is working on the other cases. It is likely that Schaffer's cooperation will lead to him testifying in front of the grand jury, as suggested by a leaked prosecution report.
Additional time may also be necessary in the event plea conditions require completion of certain requirements before entering into a formal agreement before the court, such as the defendant testifying before the grand jury.
Leaked court documents showed that talks between Schaffer and prosecutors on a deal were in the "advanced" stages, according to a report from BuzzFeed News. The public filing was made in error, as prosecutors intended to file it under seal to avoid this sorta thing. Of the more than 350 people charged to date, some others arrested have been offered similar plea offers. However, no specifics of the plea deals have been revealed. Buzzfeed News noted the filing wrote that the negotiations with Schaffer were “the first and most advanced” involving “any of the over 300 Capitol Riot defendants.”
Schaffer was wearing an Oath Keepers hat during the raid as is believed to be a member of the group. Nine leaders of the group have been charged with organizing the riots. The Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers distanced themselves from Schaffer, without directly naming him, saying he was never a member of their chapter.
Schaffer has previously identified as “a constitutional conservative.” In a Facebook chat earlier this year, he said "People think they don't have any power, but they have a tremendous amount of power — I mean, an unbelievable amount of power," Schaffer added. "The system and the control grid wants to make you feel like you have no power and they enforce their rule through fear, intimidation and psychological warfare. It's all garbage.
"I'm not a left-or-right guy. I'm an American — that's my country; that's where I live. I don't trust my government. I don't give a shit if it's an 'R' or a 'D' next to the name of the person. I try to understand the bigger picture. I've done a lot of reading and a lot of studying. I'm a man of my convictions, and I don't say stuff that I don't truly believe. And I have changed my position a few times through the years, because I've learned more — not because I was trying to be politically correct or trying to kowtow to somebody's opinion."