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Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer sued by D.C. attorney general for his role in attempted coup at U.S. Capitol

Posted by on December 15, 2021

 

Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer is among more than two dozen members of the Oath Keepers, and Proud Boys groups, being sued by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine in an effort to recover the millions of dollars the city spent to defend the U.S. Capitol during the January 6 attack. According to CNN, the lawsuit filed Tuesday (14th) in federal court in Washington, DC, accuses 31 members of the extremist groups of “conspiring to terrorize the District” on Jan. 6, calling their actions “a coordinated act of domestic terrorism.” The lawsuit cites the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a federal law created after the Civil War to protect civil rights and, as Racine noted, “to protect against vigilantes and insurrectionists.”

“I think the damages are substantial,” Racine told The Washington Post. “If it so happens that it bankrupts or puts these individuals and entities in financial peril, so be it.”

Racine said at a news conference:

“No one bore the brunt of this gutless attack more than the courageous law enforcement officers including the men and women of the DC Metropolitan Police Department who went into the fire and violence with one objective in mind: remove the violent mob and restore our country’s fragile democracy.” 

He added:

“The defendants, as you know, were not tourists, nor were they acting patriotically. They were vigilantes, members of a mob, insurrectionists who sought to crush our country’s freedoms.”

As part of his April 2021 plea deal, Jon entered 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 pleaded 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.

In his plea agreement, Schaffer 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 he exited while holding his own bear spray in his hands.

After pleading guilty, Schaffer was released on the following conditions:

* Schaffer must submit to court supervision in the Northern District 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.

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.

As part of the agreement, the Justice Department has offered to sponsor Schaffer for the witness protection program.

The 53-year-old musician was the first Capitol riot defendant to reach a plea deal.

The Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers distanced itself from Schaffer after his arrest, claiming he was not a member of the local group. But the national organization, which sells lifetime memberships for $1,200, has not commented on his alleged affiliation with the group.

Following the initial reports that Schaffer was involved in the riot, his Iced Earth bandmates distanced themselves from his actions. Singer Stu Block and bassist Luke Appleton later posted separate statements on social media announcing their resignations. Blind Guardian frontman Hansi Kürsch also quit Demons & Wizards, a project he shared with Schaffer. The allegations also apparently affected Schaffer’s relationship with his longtime record label Century Media, which had released albums from both Iced Earth and Demons & Wizards. As of mid-January, the Century Media artist roster page did not list either band.

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