Right-Wing Extremists Set Up A Planning Meeting Ahead Of The Capitol Riot In January
James Breheny of New Jersey is alleged to have been in contact with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and to have invited him to a meeting of “multiple patriot groups” just before Jan. 6.
Federal prosecutors have charged a 14th member of the Oath Keepers with involvement in the Capitol insurrection, in this case a New Jersey man who they say was in contact with the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes and invited him to a “leadership meeting of multiple patriot groups” in southeastern Pennsylvania just days prior to Jan. 6.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, James Breheny also forwarded Rhodes a message explaining that the meeting was “our last chance to organize before the show. This meeting will be for leaders only.”
The complaint, unsealed Thursday, alleges that Breheny reached out to Rhodes on Dec. 21 to invite him to a meeting in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, on Jan. 3. At the time he also forwarded Rhodes a message from an unnamed third party that said: “This will be the day we get our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups, share rally points etc.” Breheny added that no cellphones would be allowed into the meeting, ostensibly to ensure no one could record the conversations, prosecutors wrote in their complaint.
The complaint said Breheny also texted Rhodes to inform him that someone had rented a building for the meeting, but it offers no further details. If the meeting took place as planned, it would suggest there was more coordination and preparation among anti-government groups than previously disclosed and, potentially, that the Oath Keepers worked in concert with other organizations.
Breheny, who lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, was arrested Thursday and is charged with entering a restricted building, violent entry, and impeding an official proceeding, a felony carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. He could not be reached for comment. A lawyer has not yet made an appearance on his behalf in federal court.
According to prosecutors, Breheny willingly entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 and “bragged about gaining entry” in text messages sent at the time, but just over a week later he lied to law enforcement officers about his role, claiming “he did not willfully enter and was pushed inside by the surge of people.”
Surveillance camera and other video footage shows Breheny entering the building, and prosecutors allege that in the days following the Capitol riot, he deleted evidence from his phone as well as his entire Facebook account, which used the screen name “Seamus Evers.”
In a message on Jan. 6, Breheny wrote, “We breached the door Baby!” A subsequent message read, “I have to clear chats,” prosecutors alleged.
In April, the FBI served a search warrant on Facebook to review the contents of that deleted account, which contained photos of Breheny in the Capitol. Prosecutors said that just hours before the Capitol was breached, Rhodes added Breheny to a group chat, “DC Op: Jan 6 21,” on the encrypted messaging service Signal under the alias “Seamus.” Breheny appears to have deleted the contents of that group chat from his phone, although investigators have been able to review it by looking at the phones of other people who were also in the chat.
Since late January, prosecutors investigating the Capitol insurrection have charged 13 other people associated with the Oath Keepers, which the Justice Department characterizes as a “loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias.”
One of those individuals, Jon Schaffer, pleaded guilty last month and agreed to cooperate with the probe. The remaining dozen individuals, who have been indicted together, are facing conspiracy charges for their role in what prosecutors claim was a planned and coordinated attempt to interfere with certification of the Electoral College. That prosecution is the largest of any to come out of the Capitol riots and, because of the conspiracy charge, arguably the most serious.
It is unclear whether Breheny will be added to that conspiracy case, which started with just three defendants. All 12 defendants in that case have pleaded not guilty. Although Rhodes has been a clear focus of investigators, who have closely detailed his messages and movements before and after Jan. 6 in multiple court filings, he has not been charged.
According to the website of the Oath Keepers’ New Jersey Chapter, Breheny is the Bergen County coordinator for the group. In one online photo, he appears in a military uniform with a patch indicating he’s a member of the New Jersey Lightfoot Militia, a local chapter of a national group that considers itself a constitutional militia but is not part of the Oath Keepers.
In 2016, Breheny appears to have run as a Republican for a Bergen County Commissioner position (at the time called a Freeholder) but was eliminated in the primary. Media reports said he worked as a valve technician for Magnatrol Valve Inc. According to a post on the Oath Keepers website, Breheny joined Rhodes and other members of the group supporting “local military and police efforts in providing event security and civilian protection” during former president Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. “Standup patriots all,” Rhodes commented, referring to Breheny and other Oath Keepers from New Jersey and New York who attended the event.