ICED EARTH guitarist Jon Schaffer has agreed to plead guilty for his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. As part of the plea deal, he is expected to enter into a cooperation agreement with the government.
Although Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, including engaging in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray, he has agreed to plead guilty to only two charges: obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress; and trespassing on restricted grounds of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon. The first charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, while the second carries up to a 10-year prison term.
According to CNN, prosecutors and Schaffer’s attorneys agreed to recommend that he get between three and a half and four and a half years in prison, based on how fruitful his cooperation is with the government.
During today’s hearing, a federal judge asked Schaffer if he understood he was “giving up” his “right to be presumed innocent,” according to WUSA9. Schaffer said he understood and agreed.
“Are you pleading guilty, Mr. Schaffer, because you are in fact guilty, sir?” U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta asked.
“Yes, sir,” Schaffer said.
The government said it was agreeing not to oppose Schaffer’s release during the sentencing phase.
Schaffer’s attorney has asked the judge for his client to be released with no travel restrictions, saying that while he lives in Indiana, he has family he cares for in Florida and his legal team is in Arizona. He also noted that Schaffer is an “internationally known musician and recording artist.”
After pleading guilty, Schaffer will be released on the following conditions:
* Schaffer must submit to court supervision in the Northem Dlstrict of Indiana.
* Schaffer will surrender his passport and any other international travel documents.
* Must stay outside of D.C. except for court hearings and meetings with attorneys.
* Will be permitted to travel within the continental United States with notice to pretrial services.
* Schaffer cannot possess any firearms or explosive devices, including legally owned firearms. Any firearms must be removed from his home.
“On this 100th day since the horrific January 6 assault on the United States Capitol, Oath Keepers member Jon Schaffer has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, including for breaching the Capitol while wearing a tactical vest and armed with bear spray, with the intent to interfere with Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results,” said acting deputy attorney general John P. Carlin. “The FBI has made an average of more than four arrests a day, seven days a week since January 6th. I commend the hundreds of special agents, prosecutors and support staff that have worked tirelessly for the last hundred days to bring those who committed criminal acts to justice.”
“The defendant in this case admits forcing his way into the U.S. Capitol on January 6 for the express purpose of stopping or delaying congressional proceedings essential to our democratic process. These actions are disgraceful and unacceptable” said FBI deputy director Paul M. Abbate. “The FBI and our partners will continue to utilize all available authorities to aggressively investigate, pursue and hold accountable those who committed acts of violence or otherwise violated the rule of law that day.”
In his plea agreement, Schaffer acknowledged he is a founding lifetime member of the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer also acknowledged that on January 6, 2021 he was in Washington to attend the “Stop The Steal” rally at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, which he believed were fraudulent. Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray, a dangerous weapon and chemical irritant used to ward off bears. When the rally finished, Schaffer joined a large crowd that marched from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress, presided over by Vice President Michael Pence, was in session to certify the electoral college vote results. Shortly after 2:00 p.m., members of the mob forced entry into the Capitol building, disrupting the joint session and causing members of Congress and the Vice President to be evacuated from the House and Senate chambers.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer admitted that after arriving on Capitol grounds, he walked past barriers intended to restrict access to the public and to a set of locked doors on the Capitol’s west side. At approximately 2:40 p.m., Schaffer positioned himself at the front of a crowd that broke open a set of doors being guarded by four U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers wearing riot gear. 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 pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with obstruction of an official proceeding and entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon. Combined, he faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. The Honorable Amit P. Mehta accepted Schaffer’s guilty plea.
The 53-year-old musician is the first Capitol riot defendant to reach a plea deal.
As part of the plea deal, Schaffer agreed to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in related criminal cases, according to CNN. In return for Schaffer’s assistance, the Justice Department might later urge the judge to show leniency during his sentencing.
Just hours after the insurrection, ICED EARTH fans recognized Schaffer in a photo released by federal investigators.
In January, German daily newspaper Die Welt uploaded a video interview it conducted with Schaffer last November at a Washington, D.C. demonstration supporting Donald Trump and protesting the 2020 presidential election results. In the chat, the guitarist said that “a group of thugs and criminals hijacked this country a long time ago” and warned that “they’re messing with the wrong people here. Because now we see you, and you’re going down. Mark my words.”
Schaffer also seemingly threw his support behind Trump, saying “he’s not your typical Republican” and claiming that America’s 45th president was “dealing with a criminal mafia that has been in the shadows running the world, frankly, for a very long time. They wanna destroy all of our sovereignty and bring about global government,” he added. “We’re not having it… It will not happen. There will be a lot of blood shed, if it comes down to that — trust me. The American people will not go for that bullshit — once they understand what’s actually happening. So, that’s where we’re at. Nobody wants this, but they’re pushing us to a point where we have no choice.”