Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Guitarist first suspect to plead guilty in Capitol riot

- Michael Balsamo and Alanna Durkin Richer

WASHINGTON – A heavy metal guitarist on Friday became the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrecti­on at the U.S. Capitol.

Jon Ryan Schaffer of the band Iced Earth agreed to cooperate with investigat­ors in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, and the Justice Department will consider putting Schaffer in the federal witness security program, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said.

This signals that federal prosecutor­s see him as a valuable cooperator as they continue to investigat­e the militia groups and other extremists involved in the insurrecti­on on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral win.

Schaffer, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, was accused of storming the Capitol and spraying police officers with bear spray. He pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutor­s in federal court in Washington to two counts: obstructio­n of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon.

An email seeking comment was sent to an attorney for Schaffer.

Schaffer is among more than 370 people facing federal charges in the deadly insurrecti­on. The Justice Department indicated it is in separate plea negotiatio­ns with other defendants.

Authoritie­s say Schaffer was caught on camera holding bear spray and quarreling with officers in the Capitol. Schaffer was wearing a baseball hat that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member” on Jan. 6, but was not charged in the large case involving members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, who are accused of conspiring with one another to block the certification of the vote.

Schaffer has voiced various conspiracy theories, once telling a German news station that a shadowy criminal enterprise is trying to run the world under a communist agenda and that he and others are prepared to fight, with violence.

In court documents, the FBI said Schaffer “has long held far-right extremist views” and that he had previously “referred to the federal government as a ‘criminal enterprise.’ ”

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