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Prosecutors allege Oath Keepers leader and Proud Boys coordinated before Capitol attack

A leader among the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers said he was coordinating with the Proud Boys about how their members would work together at the US Capitol on January 6, according to a new court filing from prosecutors late Tuesday night.

Facebook chats made public in the filing by the Justice Department show Kelly Meggs, a leader among the Oath Keepers, discussing his communications with Proud Boys leadership and how he had “orchestrated a plan” with the group.

Criminal conspiracy cases against the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are among the most aggressive actions from the Justice Department following the violent pro-Trump riot. The new allegations about Meggs and the Proud Boys are the first time prosecutors have publicly linked allegedly violent efforts of the two right-wing extremist groups closely together.

While the messages show communications between members of the groups, prosecutors haven’t alleged an overarching conspiracy before the Capitol attack, and Justice officials so far don’t think the evidence points to that.

In a December 22 Facebook message, Meggs discussed the Oath Keepers having 50 to 100 members in Washington, DC, on January 6, then wrote, “Plus we have made contact with PB and they always have a big group. Force multiplier.”

Three days later on Christmas, Meggs messaged again with a person he urged to come to DC, providing what prosecutors call a “provisions list” of armor and non-gun weapons to bring, and described in more detail an attack plan with the Proud Boys.

“You can hang with us we will probably be guarding [redacted] or someone during the day but then at night we have orchestrated a plan with the proud boys,” Meggs wrote, according to Facebook messages excerpted in the court record.

“I’ve been communicating with [redacted] the leader. We are going to march with them for awhile then fall back to the back of the crowd and turn off. Then we will have the proud boys get in front of them … we will come in behind antifa and beat the hell out of them.”

The Justice Department said in the filing it now also has credit card records of Meggs paying for four DC-area hotel rooms from January 5 to January 7, and online meeting records that show him holding DC planning sessions.

Prosecutors revealed the new information is part of an argument against releasing Meggs from jail. Meggs has pleaded not guilty and seeks to be released as he awaits trial.

Oath Keeper released from jail

The Justice Department also cited emails between Meggs and another alleged co-conspirator, Laura Steele, who applied for membership in the Oath Keepers a few days before the January 6 attack.

Prosecutors have said Steele touted her experience as a police officer in North Carolina in her membership application. Many Oath Keepers are former military and law enforcement.

A federal judge ordered Steele’s release from jail on Wednesday, saying her conduct at the Capitol appears to be a “one-time episode.” The debate over jailing militia members before trial has kept coming up in Capitol riot cases, with judges reaching different conclusions about their dangerousness.

Judge Amit Mehta said Steele’s actions at the Capitol “posed a threat to the fabric of our democracy,” but there wasn’t enough evidence of violent behavior to justify her continued detention.

“She’s not accused of being a planner, someone who organized this group, someone who recruited members or trained members,” Mehta said during a virtual hearing in Washington, DC, federal court.

Steele has pleaded not guilty to a four-count indictment and will be put on house arrest.

Federal prosecutors said their investigation had been hampered by Steele’s efforts to destroy evidence after the insurrection, when images of her brother were widely circulated in the media. (Steele’s brother has also been charged in the same conspiracy case.)

Asked if obstruction of justice charges could be coming, Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Nestler said, “The grand jury continues to investigate.”

Over the last few weeks, Mehta has kept some Oath Keepers in jail while releasing others. He ruled that an alleged ringleader in the conspiracy, Jessica Watkins, was too dangerous to set free. But he released another co-defendant, Thomas Caldwell, noting that Caldwell didn’t actually enter the Capitol that day.

This story has been updated with details from the Steele hearing.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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