An Arizona man accused of readying a so-called “quick reaction force” allegedly armed and ready to cross the Potomac by boat to storm D.C. on Jan. 6 pleaded not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges on Friday.
Edward Vallejo, 63, of Arizona, was one of the key figures in the plot by members of the Oath Keepers militia group to breach the Capitol on Jan. 6 and stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, prosecutors say.
Vallejo wasn’t part of the two “stacks” of Oath Keeper members that prosecutors say forced their way in to the Capitol building that day. But according to the indictment, he was standing by at the Comfort Inn Ballston in Virginia, ready to join the violence at any moment. Oath Keepers founder and leader Stewart Rhodes allegedly envisioned a “worst case scenario” for those militia members where former President Donald Trump “calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC,” prosecutors wrote in a legal brief last May.
Vallejo is now charged with seditious conspiracy, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging duties. The seditious conspiracy charge carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison.
During an arraignment on Friday before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, a Barack Obama appointee, Vallejo formally entered a plea of not guilty.
According to prosecutors, Vallejo coordinated with other members in the days before Jan. 6, and then traveled across the country ahead of Jan. 6 with an “arsenal” of weapons for a so-called quick reaction force, or QRF.
Prosecutors say Vallejo and others “staged” the so-called QRF at the Comfort Inn Ballston, just outside of D.C.
On the morning of Jan. 6, the indictment says, “VALLEJO and others were on standby at the Comfort Inn Ballston, monitoring communications from the co-conspirators on the ground inside Washington, D.C., and awaiting a call to bring the weapons to the co-conspirators. On a podcast that morning, VALLEJO and an Arizona QRF team member discussed the possibility of ‘armed conflict’ and ‘guerilla war’ and explained that ‘there are people who are prepared, have the will, have the facilities to do more than taunt.'”
Later that day, as chaos reigned at the Capitol, Vallejo allegedly signaled his readiness to join the fray.
“Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist,” he messaged the group’s encrypted chat at 2:24 p.m., according to prosecutors.
“QRF standing by at hotel,” he texted the group at 2:38 p.m. “Just say the word[.]”
According to prosecutors, the Oath Keepers’ so-called QRF was standing by on Jan. 6, ready to deploy by boat over the Potomac River at former President Donald Trump’s direction.
That plan never materialized, but Vallejo seemed eager for a second chance, allegedly messaging the group on Jan. 7: “We’ll be back to 6am to do it again. We got food for 30 days.”
He later added: “We have only [begun] to fight!” and “‘After Action Reports’ will be dated 1/21/21,” the indictment says.
Vallejo’s 10 accused co-conspirators pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned before Mehta on Tuesday. Also named in the indictment are: Rhodes, Thomas Caldwell, Joseph Hackett, Kenneth Harrelson, Joshua James, Kelly Meggs, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, Brian Ulrich, and Jessica Watkins.
Nine of those defendants—all except Rhodes and Vallejo—had previously been named in an indictment from last year. At Tuesday’s hearing, they were officially dropped from that case, although the charges originally filed against them remain, according to the FBI.
Seven defendants remain in the original case: Donovan Crowl, William Isaacs, Connie Meggs, Sandra Parker, Bernie Parker, Laura Steele, and James Beeks.
Vallejo, like Rhodes, remains in custody.
Read the indictment against Stewart, Vallejo, and the other alleged Oath Keepers, below.
[Images via FBI.]
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