Prosecutors Are Accusing A Member Of The Oath Keepers Of Lying About His Paramilitary Training
Kelly Meggs had a 97-second phone call with the Oath Keepers' founder, Stewart Rhodes, on the day of the Capitol insurrection, prosecutors said.
In a new filing on Thursday, federal prosecutors accused Kelly Meggs, a member of the Oath Keepers, of lying in court and to the FBI that he had never received paramilitary training prior to storming the US Capitol on Jan. 6, even though he and his wife had in fact attended at least two such sessions.
The brief, filed in DC District Court, came less than a day after BuzzFeed News first revealed photographs and videos of Meggs and his wife, Connie Meggs, taking part in at least two military-style training sessions organized by a former US Marine in Florida last year.
The couple, who live in Dunnellon, Florida, are among 10 people who have been indicted for conspiring to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College by forcibly entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, among other charges. Both have been jailed since their arrests on Feb. 17 and have filed motions seeking their release on bail. The Department of Justice has argued they should be kept behind bars; hearings to determine whether they stay in jail are scheduled for Friday in Washington, DC.
In his motion for release, filed March 17, Kelly, 52, claimed that “he never served in the military nor has he undergone any paramilitary training.” In the new filing, prosecutors said he had denied undergoing any firearms training in Florida when interviewed by the FBI following his arrest. “We never actually did it, but that was like one of the things we were talking about,” Kelly allegedly said.
But records reviewed by BuzzFeed News from Facebook, Instagram, and other online sources show that the couple, along with their son and at least one other member of the Oath Keepers, Kenneth Harrelson, attended two separate firearms instruction sessions put on by Combat Art Training at a facility in Leesburg, Florida. Harrelson is also under indictment for his role in the events of Jan. 6.
The first training session, held Sept. 20, was titled “Rifleman 1 Rifle Class.” According to a class description, participants were taught “how to gunfight at close distance with a rifle in a fast and effective manner.” Financial records reviewed by prosecutors show that Kelly paid $600 to the combat training facility on Jan. 21.
In a video of the session that the Meggs family participated in, Connie can be seen using what prosecutors call an “AR-platform firearm,” while Kelly is seen preparing to fire a weapon at human-shaped targets. He can be heard laughing as the instructor, Andrew Smrecek, discusses how well-placed shots can “break bones” rather than cause mere “flesh wounds.” According to prosecutors, the instructor taught the Meggs to aim at the chest to either hit the heart to inflict “massive hemorrhaging” or the lungs to cause “sucking chest wounds.”
The filing also notes that the tactical gear Kelly wore on Jan. 6 has not been recovered by law enforcement. Prosecutors spotlighted a group chat from Jan. 22 in which he appeared to suggest he may have hidden or destroyed that equipment. “I lost it all in a boating accident,” he wrote.
Reached for comment on the apparent contradiction between Meggs' court filing and the photographic and video evidence, his lawyer, David Wilson said: "Obviously you know more than I do. Respectfully, I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment at this time."
Separately, prosecutors also revealed on Wednesday night that Kelly had a 97-second phone call on the afternoon of Jan. 6 with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes just moments before he and his wife joined other members of the militant group on the east side of the Capitol and began pushing their way into the building. The substance of that call is not known. After leaving the Capitol, the Oath Keepers members gathered around Rhodes, according to prosecutors.
Earlier this month, Rhodes denied to the Washington Post that he had directed the dozen or so Oath Keepers to enter the Capitol. In a text exchange with BuzzFeed News, he declined to address the government’s case against the Oath Keepers and questioned why he should answer reporters’ questions, saying: “It’s like Solzhenitsyn being approached by Pravda for a comment on a hit piece they are doing on him.” He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Rhodes, who has not been charged with any crimes related to the insurrection, is referred to as “Person One” in court hearings and filings. But as the conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers moves forward, prosecutors have revealed ever more about Rhodes’ actions leading up to and on Jan. 6 in a series of filings arguing for the continued detention of the indicted members.
Much of that information is drawn from a group chat on Signal, an encrypted messaging app, that Rhodes participated in along with at least four other Oath Keepers, all of whom are charged with entering the Capitol. Late on the evening of Jan. 6, prosecutors said, Rhodes sent a lengthy message in the Signal group comparing the day’s events to the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
“The founding generation Sons of Liberty stormed the mansion of the corrupt Royal Governor of Massachusetts, and trashed the place. They also jumped on board a ship carrying East India Tea, and dumped it in the harbor,” Rhodes wrote. “We are actually in a far more deadly situation given the FACT that enemies foreign and domestic have subverted, infiltrated, and taken over near every single office and level of power in this nation.”
The details about Rhodes and his interactions with Kelly and other indicted members came in a Justice Department filing arguing against the release of Jessica Watkins, a member of the Oath Keepers who has been behind bars since her arrest in mid-January.
The evidence, prosecutors claim, “further underscores the audacious and corrupt nature of the conspiracy that she and her co-conspirators engaged in.”