Judge releases Oath Keeper 'commander' Thomas Caldwell, 65, and says there is no evidence he entered the Capitol during MAGA riot

 A Virginia veteran who was accused of being a member of the Oath Keepers and charged over the Capitol riot was released on bail on Friday, as the judge in his case questioned the strength of the charges against him.

Thomas Caldwell, 65, was in poor health, Judge Amit Mehta noted, presiding over a Washington DC court.

Federal prosecutors accused him of plotting for months in advance with fellow associates of the anti-government Oath Keepers militia.

Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander who has held a security clearance and once worked for the FBI, was charged along with Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destroying government property and entering a restricted building.

Thomas Caldwell, seen posing at CPAC in February 2019, was released from jail on Friday

Thomas Caldwell, seen posing at CPAC in February 2019, was released from jail on Friday

Prosecutors showed the members of the Oath Keepers during the January 6 insurrection

Prosecutors showed the members of the Oath Keepers during the January 6 insurrection

Caldwell is shown at a pro-Trump rally in a handout provided by prosecutors

Caldwell is shown at a pro-Trump rally in a handout provided by prosecutors

Caldwell, Watkins and Crowl are accused of concocting a plot to stage an armed 'quick reaction force' outside of Washington that would be ready to swoop in and fight 'hand to hand' if ordered by Donald Trump.

They planned to cross the Potomac river with 'heavy weapons'. 

Watkins and Crowl remain in detention.


Prosecutors said the FBI had found a document entitled 'Death List' during a search of Caldwell's home, with the hand-written name of an election official in another state.

Mehta criticized Caldwell's 'fanciful' beliefs that the 2020 election should be overturned, and strongly criticized the Oath Keepers for preparing for possible violence.

But he noted that Caldwell did not enter the Capitol itself.

Jessica Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Crowl (center) at the Capitol riot on January 6

Jessica Watkins (2nd from L) and Donovan Crowl (center) at the Capitol riot on January 6

'There is an absence of direct evidence of planning by Mr Caldwell to enter the Capitol building,' Mehta said.

'There are no text messages, communications by him, that speak to entering a building or trying to enter the building. And ultimately, he did not enter the building.'

More than 300 people have been charged in connection with the riot, and the Justice Department say that figure could easily pass 400.

Charges are also likely coming against additional members of the Oath Keepers, building on the existing conspiracy case that already has nine defendants, prosecutors said on Thursday in court.

Mehta put Caldwell on house arrest with GPS monitoring, banned him from using electronics, and warned him against communicating with anyone associated with the Oath Keepers.

Rioters are seen inside the Capitol on January 6. Caldwell never entered the building

Rioters are seen inside the Capitol on January 6. Caldwell never entered the building

Mehta's decision reversed a previous ruling he made last month to keep Caldwell in jail pending trial.

Caldwell has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer said Friday he is 'innocent' of the charges.

'Don't take this as a reflection of the seriousness of what you've been charged with, or your conduct,' Mehta said.

'But I've got standards to follow under the law and I think they justify your release. Make no mistake - if you violate my conditions, you will be back in jail very quickly.'

Caldwell's lawyer, David Fischer, said his client was afraid of Antifa attacking Trump supporters.

Fischer said this was why Caldwell and other co-conspirators had discussed having an armed 'quick reaction force' across the river in Virginia, ready to come into Washington if there were trouble.

Judge releases Oath Keeper 'commander' Thomas Caldwell, 65, and says there is no evidence he entered the Capitol during MAGA riot Judge releases Oath Keeper 'commander' Thomas Caldwell, 65, and says there is no evidence he entered the Capitol during MAGA riot Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 09:49 Rating: 5

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