WASHINGTON — A Florida man who stormed the U.S. Capitol with other members of the far-right Oath Keepers testified Monday that he believed they were part of a “historic Bastille-type event” reminiscent of the Revolution French.
Graydon Young, a government witness in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, said he saw parallels between the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021 and the people of France who “rose up and resisted the kings”. and tyrants” more than two centuries ago.
“People were obviously attacking the government and its function,” Young said during the fifth week of trial testimony.
Young, 57, of Englewood, Fla., was the first member of Oath Keepers to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge related to the attack on the Capitol. He was the second member of the group to testify for federal prosecutors at trial.
Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and four others are charged with seditious conspiracy in what authorities described as a plot to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power from incumbent Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden, who won the election. of 2020.
Young pleaded guilty in June 2021 to conspiring to obstruct the joint session of Congress for certification of the Electoral College vote.
Defense attorney James Lee Bright, one of Rhodes’ attorneys, urged Young to report any evidence of a criminal conspiracy or “explicit plan” for the oath keepers to attack the Capitol.
“It was implicit for me at the time,” Young said. “I didn’t say explicitly, ‘Let’s commit a crime,’ but I thought it was implied.”
“It was spontaneous,” Bright said.
“It was,” Young said.
Others on trial are Thomas Caldwell of Berryville, Va.; Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio; and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida.
Jason Dolan was the first member of the Oath Keepers to testify at trial. Dolan, who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, said members of the group were prepared to use “any means necessary” on Jan. 6 to prevent certification of Biden’s election victory.
After leaving the “Stop the Steal” rally where Trump spoke on Jan. 6, Young said he originally joined Meggs to escort a speaker’s relative from the rally. But their “focus” changed, Young said, when Meggs learned the crowd broke through police barricades at the Capitol.
“We all knew there was potential for something historic to happen on Capitol Hill,” Young said.
Young wore a helmet and carried a radio as he joined other oath keepers to ascend the stairs on the Capitol’s east side in a military-style “stack” formation, according to a court filing accompanying his guilty plea. After entering the building, Young and others pushed against a line of police guarding the hallway connecting the rotunda to the Senate, according to the filing.
“We stormed in and walked in,” Young later posted on Facebook before deleting his account.
Young said he was scared and ashamed when he realized how much trouble he was in after the riot. He got choked up when a prosecutor asked him why he had decided to cooperate with the authorities.
“It’s really embarrassing,” he said.
Young, who served in the U.S. Navy Reserves for 11 years, said he was a Trump supporter who “got really fired up” from a steady diet of political YouTube videos in 2020. Young in North Carolina told him about the Oath Keepers. He joined the group less than two months before January 6, thinking that “it could be an effective way to get involved”.
Young posted a cryptic message to fellow oath keepers on December 20, 2020, which said “something more is needed” than marches and protests. When asked what he was referring to in that post, Young replied, “Something more effective and powerful than just protests.”
Young said he believed Trump’s claims of a stolen election, believed a “corrupt government” was responsible, and felt a sense of “desperation and hopelessness” as Jan. 6 approached.