The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Oath Keeper details pre-Jan. 6 planning, pleads to seditious conspiracy

William Todd Wilson of North Carolina is the third member of far-right group to cooperate with prosecutors in Capitol riot cases

Members of the Oath Keepers on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. William Todd Wilson of North Carolina told investigators he helped push open doors that enabled other members of the group to enter the Capitol, and pleaded guilty Wednesday to seditious conspiracy. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

For two months after the 2020 presidential election, William Todd Wilson made preparations for an attack on the U.S. Capitol from his home in North Carolina, where he was a county leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group. On Jan. 5, 2021, according to court records, he drove to a hotel in Tysons Corner in Virginia with an AR-15-style rifle, a 9mm pistol, about 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, pepper spray and a large walking stick “intended for use as a weapon,” according to court records filed Wednesday.

Wilson stashed the weapons as part of teams of “quick reaction forces” waiting in various hotels outside of the District, ready to be summoned if needed during the Jan. 6 riot, the court records state.

On Wednesday, Wilson admitted he traveled from Tysons Corner to the Capitol with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes that morning, entered the Capitol through the west side and then joined a mob of people who forced open the Rotunda doors on the east side of the building, enabling a column of fellow Oath Keepers to join the melee.

When the Capitol was finally cleared, Wilson joined Rhodes in a suite at the Phoenix Park Hotel, just blocks from the Capitol, and listened to Rhodes call someone on a speaker phone, Wilson admitted. Wilson told investigators he heard “Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” the court records state. “This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, ‘I just want to fight.’”

The “individual” on the other end of the call was not identified.

On Wednesday, Wilson, 44, became the third member of the Oath Keepers to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, and agree to cooperate fully with the government. Wilson’s plea agreement, giving him credit for cooperating, calculates that his likely sentencing range is 63 to 78 months in prison. Wilson had not previously been arrested and pleaded guilty to a two-count information filed Wednesday during his plea hearing.

First Jan. 6 defendant pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy in Capitol attack

Rhodes and nine other members of the Oath Keepers have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Fellow Oath Keepers Joshua James, 34, of Alabama, and Brian Ulrich, 44, of Georgia, also pleaded to sedition and obstruction, and also said they brought guns to the Virginia suburbs in anticipation of violence at the Capitol.

Prosecutors appear to be gradually connecting the groups who organized themselves before Jan. 6, such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, with those tied to the Trump White House. James and Ulrich were seen providing security for Roger Stone, a close adviser to Trump, at a Jan. 5 rally before the Capitol attack. And Wednesday’s court filings say an Oath Keepers group chat in December 2020 featured an article about former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, in which Flynn said it was “time for God-fearing Americans to fight.”

Wilson replied in the chat, “It is time to fight!”

Rhodes began agitating for a response to the election of Joe Biden two days after the vote, according to the statement of offense filed in Wilson’s case, saying, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.” In one online meeting, the statement of offense signed last month by Wilson states, “Rhodes outlined a plan to stop the lawful transfer of power, including preparations for the use of force and urged those listening to participate: ‘You’re from Oath Keepers. You got a responsibility and duty. You raised your freaking right hand. You swore that oath … you got to fight.’”

Second Oath Keepers member pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy

Wilson, Rhodes and other leading Oath Keepers members stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, just off Chain Bridge Road in Tysons Corner, on the night of Jan. 5, court records state. The next morning, Rhodes messaged a group of Oath Keepers that “we will have several well equipped QRFs [quick reaction forces] outside DC.” Prosecutors have said another group of Oath Keepers stayed at, and kept weapons at, a Quality Inn in the Ballston area of Arlington as a “QRF.”

“Wilson was prepared to retrieve his weapons for use in Washington, D.C., if called upon to do so,” he admitted in the statement of offense.

On Jan. 6, Wilson, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers leaders traveled in one car from Tysons Corner to the District, and joined the large crowd outside the Capitol. Rhodes is not accused of entering the Capitol, but Wilson admits he did so shortly after 2:30 p.m., “the first of the [Oath Keepers] co-conspirators to breach the building.”

Wilson then went through the Rotunda to the east side and helped force the east side doors open at 2:39 p.m., enabling 14 Oath Keepers, many wearing paramilitary clothing and Oath Keepers patches in a military-style stack formation, to enter the Capitol, the statement of offense says. Wilson reconnected with Rhodes outside of the Capitol at 2:55 p.m., and “Rhodes seemed pleased that Wilson and others had gone inside of the Capitol,” according to the statement of offense.

Wilson, Rhodes and others left the Capitol about 5 p.m. and walked to the Phoenix Park Hotel at F and North Capitol streets, near Union Station, the court filing states, where Wilson listened to Rhodes ask someone if he could speak directly with Trump.

Later that night, the group returned to Tysons Corner, the statement of offense says, where Rhodes “continued to discuss the need to prepare for a larger fight against the government akin to the American Revolutionary War.” The group then discussed erasing incriminating material from their phones. Wilson told the FBI that, after returning to North Carolina, he threw his cellphone into the Atlantic Ocean.

Rhodes has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of manufacturing a nonexistent conspiracy. An attorney for him could not be immediately reached Wednesday evening.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

correction

An earlier version of this article said Roger Stone was at a rally on Jan. 6, 2021, before the Capitol attack. He was at a rally on Jan. 5, 2021. This article has been corrected.

Loading...