Federal prosecutors alleged in a new court filing that Members of the Oath Keepers militia group who joined in the Jan. 6 insurrection appear to have stashed weapons at a hotel in Virginia as part of a so-called “Quick Reaction Force” they could activate if violence escalated that day.
In a court document filed Monday seeking the continued detention of Kenneth Harrelson, one of a dozen members of the Oath Keepers charged in a sweeping conspiracy case against the group, prosecutors cited newly discovered communications allegedly showing members discussing storing their weapons at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, knowing that possessing such arms within Washington, D.C., would be illegal.
“The evidence suggests that Defendant Harrelson was both aware of the presence of an armed Quick Reaction Force and likely contributed weapons to it,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors pointed to messages allegedly sent in a Signal chat where an unidentified individual referred to as “Person Three” was planning to stay in the hotel on the day of Jan. 6, “because of its close location and easy access to downtown.”
“He is committed to being the quick reaction force an[d] bringing the tools if something goes to hell,” one of Harrelson’s co-defendants in the case, Thomas Caldwell, allegedly wrote to the group.
“Where can we drop off weapons to the QRF team?” another one of Harrelson’s co-defendants, Jessica Watkins, allegedly wrote in a Jan. 4 message. “I’d like to have the weapons secured prior to the Op tomorrow.”
Prosecutors also point to an image pulled from surveillance video at the Comfort Inn that they say shows Harrelson wheeling “what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator” the day after the riot.
“In other words, it is reasonable that Defendant Harrelson dropped his weapons off with the QRF at the Comfort Inn Ballston on January 5, and then retrieved those weapons on the morning of January 7 as he left the Washington, D.C., area,” prosecutors wrote.
Harrelson, Caldwell and Watkins have each pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them. ABC News has reached out to Harrelson’s lawyer for comment.
While prosecutors in the case have previously cited communications between members of the group discussing a so-called “Quick Reaction Force,” prior to Monday’s filing it wasn’t entirely clear whether the government believed such an idea was in fact carried out or merely aspirational.
Prosecutors have not alleged, however, that such a force was ever positioned with the intention of targeting the Capitol specifically. Instead, discussions surrounding the so-called “QRF” appeared to center around having quick access to firearms in the event demonstrations in the city devolved into violence or if former President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act, effectively instituting martial law.
The new filing also contained Signal messages obtained by prosecutors that points to the fallout among some Oath Keepers in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, including one member calling the founder and leader of the militia group, Stewart Rhodes (identified as Person One) a “dumba**.”
In the alleged messages obtained by prosecutors, Rhodes, identified as “Person One,” found himself on the defensive following the storming of the Capitol, urging members in the private group: “Look, I WAS THERE. I WAS RIGHT OUSIDE. Patriots stormed in. Not Antifa. And I don’t blame them. They were justifiably pissed off.”
Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, who is also charged in the storming of the Capitol, replied “who gives a damn who went in there,” before adding, “What matters is where we are now and decisions that have to be mad[e]. We are now the enemy of the State.” An individual who prosecutors identified as “Person Eleven” then replied blasting Rhodes, writing, “As I figured. This organization is a huge f***** joke. You [Name of Person One] are the dumba** I heard you were.”
In another set of messages obtained by prosecutors, Rhodes and Harrelson allegedly discussed Meggs and expressed regret over his leading role on Jan. 6. Rhodes also reportedly sent a lengthy message to Harrelson detailing plans to reform the Oath Keepers and “tighten up command and control and the discipline” and urged him to pass it on to other members, prosecutors said.
“We need to get stricter with ourselves. We got too lax. Too complacent. To[o] presumptive that all our teams know from million and know where their lanes are…. they were dumb a**** … but we have to find a way so that cannot happen again,” Rhodes, identified as ‘Person One,’ wrote to Harrelson, according to prosecutors.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.