In a major development in the investigation of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrectionist riot at the U.S. Capitol a founding member of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against others who tried to prevent Joe Biden’s certification as the 46th president.
Exactly 100 days since the Capitol was breached Jon Ryan Schaffer appeared before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., admitted his guilt and became the first defendant to publicly flip in the investigation that so far has led to charges against more than 410 people.
Prosecutors hope Schaffer’s plea will spur others to provide additional evidence in hopes of avoiding long prison sentences.
Schaffer, 53, was charged on Friday by criminal information, which is a type of charging document used when a defendant waives the right to an indictment. U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta accepted the plea, and a request for Schaffer to be free and allowed to travel while he helps the government and awaits sentencing. Being permitted to travel is important for Schaffer in his role as a guitarist and lead songwriter for the heavy metal band Iced Earth.
“You’re pleading guilty Mr. Schaffer because you’re in fact actually guilty?” the judge asked. “Yes,” he responded.
Under terms of the plea deal signed by Schaffer and his attorney Marc Victor, he faces a recommended prison term of 41 to 51 months under non-binding federal guidelines. Ultimately his sentence will be decided by a judge.
Peter Skinner, a former federal prosecutor, called it a “huge” development, saying such cooperation deals are “what the government needs to investigate and possibly prosecute the leaders of the organization. Clearly, they’re trying to send a strong signal to other Oath Keepers and leaders that there’s somebody in the organization that is going to be telling them everything they know about the organization.”