A member of the Oath Keepers extremist group pleaded guilty Wednesday in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a major step forward for the massive investigation into the insurrection.
It was also the first guilty plea in the major conspiracy case brought against members of the Oath Keepers.
Graydon Young, who was accused alongside 15 other members and associates of the Oath Keepers of conspiring to block the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s presidential victory, pleaded guilty to two counts — conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.
The second charge calls for up to 20 years in prison, but U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said federal sentencing guidelines call for Young to serve between a little more than 5 years and 6 and a half years behind bars. Prosecutors could ask for even less time in exchange for his cooperation against other defendants.
Young, of Englewood, Florida, was arrested in February and charged in the sweeping conspiracy case accusing members of the Oath Keepers of coming to Washington prepared to to use violence and intent on stopping the certification of the vote. Authorities said in court documents that Young joined the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers in December, writing that he was, “looking to get involved in helping …”
Later that month, Young reached out to a company that does firearms and combat training about a rifle class for four people, according to the indictment. Authorities say Young, wearing a helmet and tactical vest, was part of the military-style “stack” seen on camera marching through the crowd before entering the Capitol building.
Four other people — a Tennessee man, Maryland man and a Virginia couple — have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the last two weeks. Judges have scheduled hearings for at least three other people to plead guilty to riot-related charges.
Part of Young’s plea agreement requires him to testify at trials of other defendants and before grand juries, and legal experts we spoke to say his testimony will be valuable to prove the group planned its invasion of the Capitol Building ahead of time.
Prosecutors say Young conspired with others, including his own sister, to forcibly enter the Capitol Building Jan. 6.
“This group has conspiracy charges against it,” said Rich Kolko, WINK News Safety & Security Specialist. “So for investigators, who have a whole bunch of evidence already, this will be icing on the cake because now they have somebody that can definitely identify people, talk about the communications methods they had, the planning, preparation.”
Attorney Pamella Seay, a professor of legal studies at FGCU, told WINK News, in order for prosecutors to prove conspiracy, they needed someone with inside knowledge.
“What had he done in planning for this particular event? How much did he actively become involved in creating this mob scene?” Seay said.
Seay says Young will likely be used against the group he was a part of.
“Since he was a member of Oath Keepers, chances are he will have evidence and information related specifically to them,” Seay said.
Seay explained that could lead to a number of guilty pleas. She says Young could be used as a witness against anyone, not just from the day of the riot, but those who were involved before and after.
“As long as it takes for the prosecution of each of these defendants, that’s how long he could be used,” Seay said.
Nearly 500 people have been charged in the insurrection where a pro-Trump mob sought to disrupt the certification of Biden’s victory. Prosecutors have brought similar conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys, another far-right extremist group.
Prosecutors say Young’s sentence will likely be reduced for his cooperation against others.
Kolko says this kind of plea deal could be offered to other groups, as federal investigators continue going after everyone who stormed the Capitol that day.
“They’ve got 500 arrested so far,” Kolko said. “I’m sure they have several others identified. At the end of the day, they are going to wrap up just about every single person that entered the Capitol illegally that day.”