- Thomas Caldwell, who participated in the January 6 insurrection, threatened to kill lawmakers.
- In messages prosecutors obtained, the accused Oath Keeper said to “hang the traitors.”
- Lawyers are fighting over whether Caldwell should be released from jail ahead of trial.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Thomas Caldwell, a participant in the January 6 riot at the Capitol, bragged about storming the building and told acquaintances he would have killed politicians if he could, according to new court filings reviewed by Insider.
The filings come in an argument from prosecutors to keep Caldwell in jail ahead of a criminal trial. He was arrested on several charges related to his participation in the insurrection.
“If we’d had guns I guarantee we would have killed 100 politicians,” Caldwell wrote, according to messages prosecutors obtained. “They ran off and were spirited away through their underground tunnels like the rats they were.”
Prosecutors said Caldwell is a member of the Oath Keepers, an extremist militia, and organized an attack on Congress with them as then-President Donald Trump urged lawmakers not to certify the 2020 presidential election results in favor of now-President Joe Biden, who was duly elected.
In the documents, prosecutors quoted from messages Caldwell sent to an acquaintance while sharing photos of his view from inside the Capitol building.
“It was instinct to snatch up my American flag and race for [the] capitol steps while the patriot stereos [were] blasting the song ‘we’re not gonna take it’ and we were screaming along as one,” he wrote in a message prosecutors obtained.
Caldwell’s attorney David Fischer has argued for his release from jail before his trial, casting doubt on his involvement in the insurrection and claiming he wasn’t actually a member of the Oath Keepers. The judge previously ordered Caldwell to remain jailed, but Fischer asked him to reconsider. The attorney said Caldwell, a Navy veteran, was making macho exaggerations.
“What the Government misunderstands is that Caldwell’s language and personality center around his military career and his addiction to Hollywood,” Fischer wrote.
Communications obtained by prosecutors show that Caldwell organized with members of the Oath Keepers in the months ahead of January 6, saying he was “on the Oathkeepers intel net for months now.” The messages also show that he personally described himself storming the Capitol building and sent photos of “the view from the balcony.” He also complained about having back pain.
Jessica Watkins, the ringleader of the Oath Keepers group, will remain in jail ahead of her trial. The cases for seven other members of the group charged in connection with the riot are still moving through the court system.
‘I said lets storm the place and hang the traitors’
Prosecutors cited messages Caldwell sent on the walkie-talkie app Zello and the encrypted messaging app Signal where he said he decided to break through barricades after “Pence f—ed us,” referring to then-Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to follow the Constitution and verify the election results, and media reports that other people had begun storming the Capitol.
“I said if we’re going to get blamed, might as well do it,” Caldwell wrote in messages obtained by prosecutors. “So I grabbed up my American flag and said let’s take the damn capitol so people started surging forward and climbing the scaffolding outside so I said lets storm the place and hang the traitors. Everybody thought that was a good idea so we did [sic].”
Caldwell said he and other insurrectionists were hit with tear gas, but they moved forward, broke through doors, and “started duking it out with the pigs” before stealing riot shields belonging to Capitol police officers (“nice souvenir I guess,” he wrote) and “throwing fire extinguishers through windows.”
“It was a great time,” Caldwell said.
Prosecutors cited Caldwell’s pride in the insurrection as an argument for why he should remain in detention until he’s tried. After the attack, he criticized media coverage and said “what we did was righteous.”
“The defense references Defendant Caldwell’s history of military and government service to support its suggestion that Defendant Caldwell would never attempt to obstruct justice,” prosecutors wrote. “The government agrees that someone with experience in those positions should know better, but the evidence suggests quite the contrary.”