Another alleged Oath Keepers associate was arrested Friday in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, accused of joining a “stack formation” of organized members who prosecutors say marched up the east steps and entered the Rotunda in camouflage and tactical gear.
A previous version of this article incorrectly reported the day David Moerschel was charged, his alleged username in an encrypted messaging group and Mark Grods’s age. A previous headline incorrectly reported the quantity of firearms turned over. Moerschel was charged on Thursday, and his username on Signal is alleged to be “Hatsy.” Grods is 54. Only one firearm was turned over. This article has been corrected.
His arrest makes him at least the 18th alleged Oath Keeper in a group whose members prosecutors have accused of plotting and communicating in advance to breach the Capitol and disrupt Congress that day.
“We look forward to proving Mr. Moerschel’s innocence,” said his attorney, Scott Weinberg. Moerschel made an initial appearance in federal court in Fort Myers, Fla., and was conditionally released on $25,000 unsecured bond.
The FBI in charging papers included several photographs of a person alleged to be Moerschel taken from surveillance, news and other video footage in and around the Capitol that day, as well as the Comfort Inn Ballston.
FBI agents met and identified Moerschel in May and recovered from his attorney on June 14 a long black jacket, black flak vest, duffel bag and rifle case, including a firearm, consistent with clothes he wore and objects he was photographed with in the images, the FBI said.
In an arrest affidavit, the FBI did not elaborate on its or prosecutors’ contacts with Moerschel or his attorney.
Charging papers said Moerschel, using the logon name “Hatsy,” attended 17 online planning calls and chats organized by charged Oath Keepers co-
defendants Kenneth Harrelson and Kelly Meggs between Sept. 28 and Jan. 3 before they traveled to Washington.
Moerschel also was part of an encrypted Signal chat group discussing gas, hotel logistics and the Quick Reaction Force, the FBI alleged. At 6:35 a.m. on Jan. 7, according to the FBI, he responded to another user, “We have your bag, We will leave it with Kane at the QRF. We are en route there now,” and “Anyone else leave anything in the white van? We can leave it for you at QRF.”
Prosecutors have asserted that at least some members of the group, allegedly including Harrelson, appeared to be staged at the Comfort Inn Ballston, with some transporting in what appeared to be rifle cases on Jan. 5 and out on Jan. 7.
The FBI in charging papers said Moerschel appeared to be one of three individuals wheeling a concierge cart with at least one long gun case onto an elevator, wearing a long black jacket matching the one his attorney turned over.
Prosecutors have charged at least 21 members or associates of the Oath Keepers in the Capitol breach, which forced the evacuation of a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 presidential election and resulted in five deaths and assaults on nearly 140 police officers, according to authorities. Eighteen alleged members are charged in connection with the largest conspiracy case, accused of planning to interfere in the proceeding as early as Election Day, before converging from states including Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
Prosecutors say the group used an invitation-only encrypted Signal chat called “DC OP: Jan 6 21” created by Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — usually identified as “Person One” in court papers but whom prosecutors initially named. Rhodes has not been charged and has said members were present only to provide security for Republican VIPs. Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, recruiting police and law enforcement members with an ideology that anticipates a civil war is looming with a tyrannical federal government threatening Americans’ gun rights, as well as others.
Three members or associates have pleaded guilty, including in the past two weeks: Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., one of 16 co-defendants, and another man charged separately who admitting being part of the group, Mark Grods, 54, of Mobile, Ala. Moerschel has also been charged separately.
Other alleged participants included charged co-defendants Jessica Watkins, 38, an Ohio militia leader, and Meggs, 52, of Florida, who the government says forced entry into the Capitol about 2:40 p.m. while in communication with others, before meeting up with Rhodes and other Oath Keepers members outside.
Both Young and Grods said co-conspirators believed they were obstructing Congress’s election certification through the intimidation and coercion of government personnel.
U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta on Friday set trial dates in the case for Jan. 31, 2022, and April 4, 2022, anticipating defendants would be split into two groups.
“Many if not most” of the first 12 indicted are in “productive” plea talks, U.S. prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said, adding that whether more would be indicted with the group “was beyond my control.”
Rhodes has called the government’s allegations “nonsense,” blamed rogue members and denied any advance knowledge that Oath Keepers planned to enter the Capitol.
“Just so we’re clear on this: We had no plan to enter the Capitol, zero plan to do that, zero instructions to do that, and we also had zero knowledge that anyone had done that until after they had done that — afterwards,” Rhodes said, saying prosecutors “are trying to manufacture a nonexistent conspiracy.”