WASHINGTON—The right-wing Oath Keepers militia group was prepared to move a stash of firearms and equipment from a Virginia hotel to rioters on Jan. 6 last year, federal prosecutors said, painting the most detailed portrait yet of the planning the group’s members allegedly undertook as they tried to stop the certification of
2020 presidential election win.
Edward Vallejo, a 63-year-old Arizona man arrested last week on seditious-conspiracy and other charges, worked with others to coordinate what they called “quick reaction forces” stationed at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Va., prosecutors said.
The teams, armed with weapons, ammunition and “essential supplies to last 30 days,” awaited direction on the day of the riot and ultimately didn’t need to deliver the materials since the group successfully breached the U.S. Capitol without them, the prosecutors said.
A federal magistrate judge in Arizona agreed Thursday afternoon with the government’s request to detain Mr. Vallejo before trial, saying that he believed Mr. Vallejo presented a danger to the community given his actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
“You were prepared to act,” Magistrate Judge John Boyle said at the detention hearing in which Mr. Vallejo appeared via telephone. “If…given that order, you would have complied,” the judge said, describing how he believed Mr. Vallejo would have transported the weapons to the Capitol if asked.
An attorney for Mr. Vallejo, Debbie Jang from the federal public defender’s office in Phoenix, said Mr. Vallejo was actively serving his community and helping veterans re-enter society, had no criminal history for decades, and wasn’t a flight risk given he had no passport or had ever left the country. “He is not a danger because the government had all this information…and didn’t make a move for over a year to arrest and indict him,” Ms. Jang said.
More than 725 people have been arrested to date for their participation in the riot that left more than 100 police officers injured and temporarily halted Congress’s certification of the election results. Around 165 of the rioters have pleaded guilty to date, with many of the early sentences coming in cases where people admitted to misdemeanor offenses, including entering a restricted federal building, and said they got swept up in the violent mob and regretted their actions.
The cases have focused largely on the violence at the Capitol itself and allegations that some rioters purchased bear spray and other items in the days before Jan. 6 and used them as weapons that day. In contrast, the sedition charges against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and 10 others, including Mr. Vallejo, describe evidence of a group engaging in extensive plans soon after the November 2020 election to use violence to keep former President
“I think Congress will screw him [President Trump] over. The only chance we/he has is if we scare the shit out of them and convince them it will be torches and pitchforks time [if] they don’t do the right thing,” Mr. Rhodes told the other Oath Keepers as they made plans for Jan. 6, the indictment alleged.
An attorney for Mr. Rhodes, Jonathon Moseley, said Thursday that his case appeared to be “more public relations than anything else.” He said prosecutors had obtained the social-media posts that appear in new charging documents months earlier, and were simply adding a new legal theory to existing evidence.
“Other than the fact that Stewart Rhodes bought some guns, I don’t see any new allegations of fact,” Mr. Moseley said. “That makes me think they are just responding to congressional criticism, it’s not like they found something new.”
In Mr. Vallejo’s detention memo, prosecutors said that on Jan. 5, one team from Florida dropped off “at least three luggage carts’ worth of gun boxes, rifle cases, and suitcases filled with ammunition” for the quick reaction force. A second, from North Carolina, had rifles ready to go in a vehicle parked in the hotel lot a few miles from the Capitol. Mr. Vallejo and other members of the Arizona team “wheeled in bags and large bins” with the ammunition and supplies, prosecutors said, citing hotel security-camera footage of the men moving the luggage near an elevator.
The next day, as many of the other Oath Keepers allegedly breached the Capitol in military formation, Mr. Vallejo remained at the hotel, telling his comrades via the encrypted messaging service Signal he had two trucks on standby and they just had to “say the word,” according to the indictment and detention memo. At 2:24 p.m., it states, just as lawmakers were being evacuated from their chambers, Mr. Vallejo messaged: “Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist,” adding 14 minutes later: “QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word…”
Two others earlier charged in the same case pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction last year, admitting they coordinated with others affiliated with the Oath Keepers on plans for Jan. 6, and used a military formation to push their way into the Capitol. One admitted to depositing an M4 rifle at the Comfort Inn hotel. The two men, Graydon Young and Jason Dolan, both agreed to cooperate in the continuing investigation, and face potentially more than five years in prison.
Some other alleged members of the group, including Thomas Caldwell, a Virginia man who served in the U.S. Navy, and Jessica Watkins, a former U.S. Army infantryman, were among the first to be arrested after the riot, and accused of developing a military-style plan to breach the Capitol. They have both pleaded not guilty, and now face the additional charge of seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors earlier accused Mr. Caldwell of discussing a plan to station a boatful of “weps,” or weapons, across the Potomac River from Washington as part of a quick reaction force. Mr. Caldwell said last year the messages were “taken out of context,” and his lawyer described the “quick reaction force” as one person in his late 60s with health issues, who was given the assignment as a way to “humor the old man.” Mr. Caldwell and others have described the surge at the Capitol as spontaneous rather than the result of any premeditated plan.
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But in the new indictment, in which both Mr. Caldwell and Ms. Watkins are named, and the accompanying detention memo for Mr. Vallejo filed this week, prosecutors described evidence that Mr. Rhodes had purchased more than $15,000 of firearms and related supplies in the days before the riot, including an “AR-platform rifle, sights, mounts, triggers, slings and additional firearms attachments” while he traveled to Washington, D.C., from Texas on Jan. 3, 2021.
After the riot, Messrs. Rhodes and Vallejo continued to plot to try to thwart Mr. Biden’s inauguration, prosecutors said. In a Dec. 30, 2021, post prosecutors cited in their detention memo, Mr. Vallejo retweeted a message describing Jan. 6 as “just a peaceful protest.” “There was NO INSURRECTION,” the tweet said.
A detention hearing for Mr. Rhodes is scheduled for Monday.
—Sadie Gurman contributed to this article.
Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com
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