Oath Keepers Lawsuit: Co-Operator Advances Definitive Plan to Stop Counting Votes


Caleb Berry had little sleep on the night of January 6, 2021. The 19-year-old said he was lying awake in his bed at the Hilton Garden Inn, not far from where he and other members of the far-right Oath Keepers group had recently been. He regretted what he had done and invaded the US Capitol.

Two years later, Berry, 21, was charged in D.C. federal court with criminal conspiracy against four other members of the Oath Keepers — the second group to go on trial. Unlike other operatives, Berry said the extremists had a clear plan to enter the Capitol and stop Joe Biden’s presidential victory from being certified — something that could benefit prosecutors’ case.

But he also admitted he wasn’t always honest with investigators as defense attorneys tried to point out inconsistencies in his testimony. Those suing said there was no plan or conspiracy, just a spontaneous decision to follow the crowd into the building, and that the Virginia-based Rapid Response Force was only searching for an elderly asthmatic for several hours on January 6. car.

Berry said he joined the Oathbreakers The Tampa group pledged in November 2020 that they would be “ready to die” to “defend the Constitution.”

But after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that injured dozens of officers and left five dead, Berry said, “I knew I made a big mistake.”

Instead of a patriotic victory, he testified, “it was a painful experience.”

Berry said he was confident he would join the trip that brought the Oath Keepers to DC on Jan. 6. Florida Oath Keepers Leader Kelly Meggs. After last year’s trial Meggs and Oath Keepers founder Stuart Rhodes were convicted of seditious conspiracy in November; associates, including another Florida swearman, Kenneth Harrelson, were acquitted of that charge but convicted of other crimes related to the riot.

Today, four more people are on trial accused of violent resistance to the American government: Joseph B. Hackett, 52; Roberto Minuta, 37; David Moerschel, 44; and Eduard Vallejo, 64 years old.

Line cook Berry testified about him he joined a right-wing group a few weeks ago, especially from his girlfriend, because he was tired of “hiding my opinion”. He was against Trump and the Oath Keepers and convinced him not to join the military, he said. In the post, Meggs called Berry a “bada-.”

Berry said he and Meggs, along with other members, were hiding guns from Florida to D.C. in a hotel in Ballston, Virginia. They provided security for the speaker while President Donald Trump and their families spoke, then escorted the “VIPs” to the Capitol, he told me.

On the way, they learned that the Capitol had been breached. On the east side of the building, Berry testified, Meggs led a mob of swearers, saying the election was “illegal and unconstitutional” and “we’re going to try to stop the vote counting.” They then gathered into a military-style “stack,” he said, and ran up the stairs into the building “like a battering ram.”

Other rebels followed the Oath Keepers’ lead because “we had the armor, we had the troops, we were experienced,” Berry said.

In a previous trial, prosecutors showed a three-minute phone call between Meggs and Rhodes before they climbed the pile of stairs. Rhodes refused to give orders to Meggs, saying he couldn’t hear him during the call.

Berry described the friction between Rhodes and Meggs — a dynamic Oath Keepers attorney Kelly SoRell also brought up to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. SoRell, who is now indicted on conspiracy and other charges, told lawmakers in April that Florida’s oath keepers “went into fraud” by working with the Proud Boys. Berry testified that the feeling was mutual; Meggs told him that “Stuart Rhodes stood up for himself” and that Florida’s oath-keepers “must stand up for ourselves.”

In the previous trial, Berry did not testify against Rhodes, Meggs or Harrelson, although prosecutors said in court Wednesday that Berry had completed two rounds of preparation to do so. The Department of Justice has a redundant list A dozen cooperating sworn witnesses allowed them to put witnesses on the stand who had yet to be questioned.

Two cooperators who testified in a previous trial said there was no specific plan to enter the Capitol, only a tacit agreement to do so. advancing the group’s goal of keeping Trump in power.

Berry was instrumental in the prosecution of Hackett, prosecutors said. Berry, who organized Sarasota members and brought weapons to DC, said he and Hackett dropped off long guns and ammunition in Ballston for the Rapid Response Force on January 5, and that Hackett was there. they caucus with Meggs before entering the Capitol. Berry also said that he and Hackett On the way back to Florida, they discussed destroying the evidence.

But under cross-examination by Hackett’s attorney, Angie Halim, Berry admitted to past dishonesty and confusion regarding the Jan. 6 incident.

Berry described the Oath Keepers as opening the doors in the east rotunda from the outside and pushing them in; doors actually open from the inside out. Before his first meeting with the FBI, Berry wrote an 11-page briefing on Jan. 6 that did not include Meggs’ directive to stop the vote count, and in previous interviews with investigators he said he did not remember who said it. . He also told the FBI that he decided to turn off his phone on his own and did it secretly.

“I tried to downsize and downsize,” Berry said.

He said he was immediately ashamed of the attack on the Capitol. But in a Jan. 11 message to Florida’s other sworn voters, Berry struck back.

“For those still interested in continuing, this fight is not over,” he wrote. “We have to be aggressively free or we won’t be free at all.” Berry said the message was about forming a new group, separate from the Oathkeepers.

He said he was still with his “liberal” girlfriend.

Moerschel’s attorney, Scott Weinberg, asked, “Did he say, ‘I told you so?’

Berry, who faces nearly five years in prison, laughed.

“Many times,” he said.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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