The leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, quoted in an indictment stating that former President Donald Trump wanted his supporters to “make it wild” on the day of the Capitol siege, pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges filed against him on Friday.
Kelly Meggs entered his plea during proceedings that took place via telephone conference.
His federal indictment shows his enthusiastic reaction to Trump’s tweet in mid-December promoting a gathering in front of the Capitol on the day the Senate certified President Joe Biden’s victory.
“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” Trump wrote on Dec. 19. “Be there, will be wild!”
Three days after that tweet, prosecutors say, Meggs took to Facebook with a message.
“Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying,” Meggs allegedly wrote in a Facebook post on Dec. 22. “He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your s***!!”
Later in the hearing, Judge Amit P. Mehta agreed to release his accused co-conspirator Thomas E. Caldwell from jail.
“I am going to agree to release Mr. Caldwell, but it is going to be on very strict conditions,” Mehta ruled, citing the 65-year-old man’s medical issues, cooperation with the FBI, and limited involvement as reasons underlying his ruling.
Of the nine Oath Keepers collectively indicted on the Capitol siege, Caldwell is the one without direct evidence of him attempting to enter the building.
“There’s evidence here that I do think is favorable to Mr. Caldwell,” the judge added.
Caldwell’s attorney David William Fischer, Sr. pursued a separate motion to reconsider his pretrial detention. Fischer disputes that his client is a member of the Oath Keepers, claiming that his client was not on their encrypted Signal network with them or use the walkie-talkie app Zello to communicate with them.
Also on Friday, prosecutors revealed plans to try to designate the case “complex.”
“The investigation and prosecution of the Capitol Attack will likely be one of the largest in American history, both in terms of the number of defendants prosecuted and the nature and volume of the evidence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn L. Rakoczy noted in a nine-page motion. “Over 300 individuals have been charged in connection with the Capitol Attack. The investigation continues and the government expects that at least one hundred additional individuals will be charged. While most of the cases have been brought against individual defendants, the government is also investigating conspiratorial activity that occurred prior to and on January 6, 2021.”
This request led to an extraordinary glimpse into the sheer breadth of the U.S. government’s investigation, in eye-watering numbers:
Documents and evidence accumulated in the Capitol Attack investigation thus far include: (a) more than 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage from multiple law enforcement agencies; (b) approximately 1,600 electronic devices; (c) the results of hundreds of searches of electronic communication providers; (d) over 210,000 tips, of which a substantial portion include video, photo and social media; and (e) over 80,000 reports and 93,000 attachments related to law enforcement interviews of suspects and witnesses and other investigative steps.
The probe has spanned dozens of state and federal agencies listed in the motion, including U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Park Police, Virginia State Police, Arlington County Police Department, Prince William County Police Department, Maryland State Police, Montgomery County Police Department, Prince George’s County Police Department, and New Jersey State Police.
If designated a complex case, prosecutors may have latitude in their deadline for turning over evidence that may be helpful to the defense.
Some of Meggs’s accused co-conspirators appeared at the telephone conference, including Caldwell, Jessica Watkins, Donovan Crowl, Sarah Parker, and Bennie Parker. The defense may oppose the designation.
(Screenshot from Oath Keepers indictment)
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