A self-described “lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers who took part in the violent Capitol protest on January 6 became the first to plead guilty on Friday to charges related to the incident, while also agreeing to cooperate with the government.
Jon Schaffer was caught on camera spraying a chemical substance at law enforcement and was subsequently charged with obstructing Congress’ move to certify the 2020 presidential election, as well as illegally entering a restricted building.
Politico reported that Schaffer had engaged in lengthy plea discussions with U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta and ultimately agreed to a deal that compels him to “cooperate fully with the United States,” including interviews and providing evidence of known crimes.
The Justice Department also offered to include Schaffer in its witness protection program as part of the deal.
The plea dialogue between prosecutors and Schaffer was accidentally revealed in early April when a Department of Justice filing was posted on a public docket.
“The government’s ongoing plea negotiations with this defendant are the first and most advanced plea negotiations involving any of the over 300 Capitol Riot defendants,” prosecutors wrote.
Twelve Oath Keepers have been charged for their participation in the Capitol Hill protest earlier this year, but it is unclear if Schaffer has a direct connection to the other members or not.
The members’ attorneys maintain that the group was present at the protest to fight back against any violence committed by anti-Trump counter-protesters like Antifa.
Violence at the Capitol did erupt on January 6, leading to the death of demonstrator and Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt. Earlier this week, it was determined that the U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Babbitt will not face any charges after President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice closed the investigation into the fatal shooting.
According to press release from the department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice “will not pursue criminal charges” against the officer responsible for the fatal shooting of 35-year-old Babbitt.
The Justice Department ultimately found that the unnamed officer who fired a single shot at Babbitt did so “in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
“Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter,” the statement read.