Rioter planned attack with militia, wanted to trap lawmakers and ‘turn on gas’: Prosecutors

first_imgWin McNamee/Getty ImagesBy AARON KATERSKY, JULIA JACOBO and ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Federal authorities are continuing to charge rioters who took part in the siege on Capitol Hill.These are the most recent arrests:1st conspiracy charges filed against Virginia manThe Justice Department has filed its first conspiracy charges from the Capitol riot against a Virginia man who they allege was an apparent leader of a group of militia members who were part of the mob that stormed the building.Thomas Edward Caldwell is identified in an FBI affidavit as a member of the Oath Keepers. An agent alleges that he helped organize a group of eight to 10 of his fellow members to storm the Capitol with the intention of disrupting the counting of the Electoral College vote.The group can be seen in video walking uniformly through a crowd of rioters trying to gain entrance to the Capitol.Those members included co-conspirators Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl, who were charged for their role in the riots earlier this week. In social media posts, both Crowl and Watkins referred to Caldwell as “Commander,” according to the court documents.While inside the Capitol, Caldwell allegedly received Facebook messages telling him to “seal” in lawmakers in the tunnels under the Capitol and to “turn on gas.” Other messages appeared to be trying to give him updates on the locations of lawmakers, the affidavit states.Other texts reveal the extensive planning and even potential attacks that he and other members of the Oath Keepers were mounting leading up to the riots.On Jan. 1, Caldwell allegedly messaged an individual recommending a room at the Comfort Inn Ballston in Arlington, Virginia, saying, “This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to.”After the riot, Caldwell allegedly posted a Facebook message stating, “Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator!” the affidavit states. He later wrote, “We need to do this at the local level. Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”Rioter seen attacking police with a batA man who was captured on surveillance video attacking law enforcement with a bat at the entrance of the Capitol turned himself in to the Metropolitan Police Department on Monday.Emanuel Jackson is allegedly the rioter seen in photos the FBI released to the public, according to federal court documents.On the surveillance video, Jackson is allegedly seen making a fist and repeatedly striking a Capitol police officer while attempting to force himself into the building, his arrest affidavit states.Later, he is “clearly observed” with a metal baseball bat striking a group of both Capitol and D.C. police officers, according to the court document.It is unclear whether Jackson has retained an attorney.Houston police officerA longtime Houston Police officer who resigned after he participated in the riot has been federally changed.Tam Dinh Pham initially denied his involvement in the siege when he was interviewed at his home in Richmond on Jan. 12, according to court documents.After the interview, Pham agreed to hand over his cellphone, which investigators noticed had no photos from Jan. 6, the affidavit states. However, the “Deleted Items” folder contained photos and images of him inside the Capitol building.When agents advised Pham that it is illegal to lie to the FBI, he admitted that he was part of the crowd that stormed into the Capitol but denied taking part in any violence, according to the court documents.Woman in Louis Vuitton sweaterA woman has been charged for participating in the riot after at least six people identified her by the Louis Vuitton sweater she was wearing that day.In one video, Gina Bisignano allegedly was seen taking part in a skirmish with police trying to protect the Capitol building, according to an FBI affidavit.Bisignano was allegedly part of a crowd that crushed a screaming police officer while a rioter grabbed his gas mask. At one point, Bisignano allegedly told the officer, “You hurt my f—— leg,” the court documents state.In a separate video, Bisignano is allegedly seen feet away from police, telling them to stand down.“We the people are not going to take it any more,” she could be heard saying in another video, according to the affidavit. “You are not going to take away our votes. And our freedom, and I thank God for it. This is 1776, and we the people will never give up. We will never let our country go to the globalists.”After entering the Capitol, Bisignano was allegedly heard telling other rioters, “We need Americans. Come on guys. We needs patriots! You guys, it’s the way in. We need some people.”2 Texas rioters, including a former Marine, accused of violenceTwo Texas men have both been arrested over their roles in the violence at the Capitol, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.Ryan Nichols and Alex Harkrider were identified from photos they posted to their social media accounts, along with several threatening messages calling for a violent overthrow of the government, according to an arrest affidavit.In one video posted online, Nichols, a former Marine, can allegedly be seen yelling into a bullhorn in the direction of a large crowd, saying, “If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon!” the federal court document states.Nichols also allegedly said “This is the second revolution right here folks!” and “This is not a peaceful protest,” according to the affidavit.Both Nichols, 30, and Harkrider, 33, are seen in videos trying to force entry into the building, with Nichols allegedly spraying what appears to be a large canister of pepper spray in the direction of officers. Nichols was also allegedly in possession of a crowbar, the court document states.The FBI also noted several other social posts from Nichols, including one on Dec. 24 that showed a bullet and stated, “By Bullet or Ballot, Restoration of the Republic is Coming,” according to the affidavit. Another post on Dec. 28 stated, “Pence better do the right thing, or we’re going to MAKE you do the right thing.”Nichols was once featured on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” in 2018 after he drove 18 hours to rescue dogs before Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina.It is unclear whether Nichols and Harkrider have retained attorneys.Member of extremist group Three PercentersRobert Gieswein — part of the Oath-keepers, an extremist group related to The Three Percenters — was charged with assaulting a federal officer with bear spray and a baseball bat.According to court documents, Gieswein “encouraged other rioters as they broke a window of the Capitol building; entered … and then charged through the Capitol building.”An FBI affidavit confirmed that Gieswein runs a private paramilitary training group called the Woodland Wild Dogs and that he was identified from a patch for that group that was visible on a tactical vest he wore during the attack on Congress.The affidavit said Gieswein gave a media interview echoing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and that Congress needs “to get the corrupt politicians out of office. Pelosi, the Clintons … every single one of them, Biden, Kamala.”Retired NYFD firefighterFreeport, New York, resident Thomas Fee surrendered to the FBI Tuesday morning at the bureau’s resident agency on Long Island.Fee, a retired NYFD firefighter, allegedly sent a relative of his girlfriend a selfie of himself inside the Capitol, prosecutors said. He’s been charged by authorities.In the text message, Fee, 53, allegedly wrote that he was “at the tip of the spear,” a reference to the Capitol rotunda, according to the court documents.Fee drove to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, and a license plate reader in New York picked up the Chevy Tahoe he was driving upon his return on Jan. 7, the court documents state.At his court appearance Tuesday, a judge ordered Fee to avoid all political gatherings and to avoid the U.S. Capitol and all state capitols upon his release. He must also surrender his two guns — a pistol grip shotgun and an antique rifle.Federal prosecutors also recommended evaluation and treatment for substance abuse and mental health treatment.Fee posted his home as collateral for her $100,000 bond.It is unclear whether Fee has retained an attorney.Former FIT studentNicholas Moncada, a 20-year-old former student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, was taken into custody at his Staten Island home Monday. He allegedly livestreamed his “storming” of the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors said.Moncada allegedly also posted a selfie of himself inside the Capitol, captioning it, “Outside Pelosi’s office.”He was recognized by fellow FIT students, who then alerted the FBI to his involvement, according to the court documents.During an appearance in a Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, Moncada was ordered to stay away from potentially antagonizing political events and speech after his release on $250,000 bond. His travel is also restricted to New York and Washington, D.C.“There’s obviously troubling conduct here,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler said, though he noted the government did not object to Moncada’s release on bond.The bond was signed by Moncada’s mother, grandmother and aunt.Moncada was an illustration major but had not been enrolled at the school since May 2020 and did not receive a degree, a spokesperson for FIT told ABC News.In a statement to ABC News Monday, Moncada’s attorney, Mario Gallucci, said he is not facing any violent charges.“Mr. Moncada was taken into custody this morning by the FBI and has been charged with various sections of the United States Code for trespassing inside a restricted building and trying to disrupt or impeded the conduct of Government business, as well as, trespassing on the floor of various Government rooms including the House of Congress, the lobby adjacent to the floor and the Rayburn Room of the House of Congress,” Galluci said. “I do not believe he is being charged with committing any acts of violence. Mr. Moncada denies any participation in the effort to overthrow the Government, and he looks forward to defending his good name.”Dozens of rioters who participated in the siege have already been taken into custody.Last week, the man seen wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Klete Keller and several members of law enforcement were arrested in connection to the riot.Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

How Gorges was Saved

first_imgHe has served as chairman of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club and helped found and/or lead a mile-long list of other environmental organizations. He has received the chapter’s highest honor for long and outstanding service, the Joseph LeConte Award, and has been inducted into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for his contributions to the state of North Carolina. The ancient crash of tectonic plates that created the Appalachian Mountains pushed up the Blue Wall on the southeast edge of the mountains and formed the bones of the lake’s basin and the maze of gorges above it. The 2000-foot wall catches moisture from clouds drifting up from the Gulf of Mexico, creating an annual average of 91 inches of rain (and a whopping 136 inches in 2018) that feeds four landmark rivers, the Thompson, Toxaway, Horsepasture and Whitewater. Their destination-worthy cascades include Whitewater, Rainbow, Turtleback and Windy falls. Lead photo by Brenda J. Wiley 91-year-old Bill Thomas strolls through Gorges State Park, which he helped to permanently protect 20 years ago. And after some prodding, Thomas acknowledged the consensus of people who know the history of this property — that he, maybe more than any single person, led it away from the first fate and toward the second. “That was a high bar,” Diggins said. “The state did not have a history of land acquisition for state parks or natural conservation.” “He represents the best of what one tireless, committed individual can accomplish to preserve and protect outstanding land and water resources for the benefit of the natural world and the public,” Diggins said. “I do think, well, I’ve done one good thing in my life,” he said.  The celebration of the park’s 20th anniversary at the annual Gorgeous Gorges Colors event this coming October is the perfect time to celebrate Thomas’ legacy. But do more than lift a glass to Thomas, said Molly Diggins, Sierra’s longtime state director. View him as proof that one individual can make a huge difference for the environment. Hold him up as an inspiration and follow his example. How Gorges Became a Park In fact, Thomas, 91, a retired chemical engineer, made an unpaid, late-life career of doing good things for the environment, applying his passion for the outdoors and brilliant, Princeton-trained intellect to a series of causes, including the blocking of a luxury subdivision planned for the heart of DuPont State Recreational Forest. To appreciate what Thomas did for Gorges State Park, think of it not as a stand-alone property but as part of the larger Lake Jocassee watershed. Also known as Jocassee Gorges, it is a freak of climatological and geologic nature that extends across the North Carolina-South Carolina line southwest of Asheville and has been named by National Geographic as one of fifty “World’s Last Great Places.” “I think the biggest high I ever had in my life was when the Horsepasture got protected,” he said. “Bill is more intellectually engaged on a wider variety of subjects than anyone I’ve ever met,” said his old friend and neighbor, Gus Napier. “He’s interested in everything!” Duke Energy, which owned about 60,000 acres in the region, had penciled in plans for several pump storage plants—designed to produce surges of electricity—on the Jocassee Gorges’ creeks and rivers. But the first active threat to the Jocassee Gorges came on one of the few large tracts in the basin that Duke didn’t own, 923 acres along the Horsepasture controlled by a company called Carrasan. It announced its plans to build a hydroelectric plant on the river in a tiny legal ad that ran in Brevard’s Transylvania Times newspaper on March 5, 1984. This caught the eye of the ever-attentive Thomas, which is one place to mark the start of his activism. His commitment to the park continued long after its formation. Thomas has been a member of park’s advisory committee since its founding. He long pushed for a Friends of Gorges State Park and served on it for several years after its creation nearly a decade ago. He thought about what it has been instead for the past 20 years—a safely preserved wonderland of deep ravines, plunging rivers and rare plants. Dressed in khakis and well broken-in leather hiking boots, he handled a short hike to Bearwallow Creek with ease, bushwhacking through briars and up and down muddy embankments. Wilcox commented on this, Thomas’ fitness, but his words could also apply to Thomas’ work for the natural world, the example he has set for younger environmentalists. Thomas knows his generation of activists is passing. He has dialed back on some of his commitments. He and Shirl are no longer the super-fit, avid hikers that smile from the banks of the Horsepasture in the photos of Dam it. Thomas lamented in an email that he could provide only a short list of contacts for former FROTH members. “All the others are gone.”center_img  “Bill was the superstar,” Leonard said. “Bill was very key to leading the charge and building public support.” He and Shirl, he said, were too naive to know that such environmental crusades typically advance at glacial speed. This one moved like an avalanche. With a few early allies, they formed a group called Friends of the Horsepasture River, “which we realized later could form a neat acronym, FROTH,” Bill Thomas wrote in a 2015 book he published on the effort, Dam it, No!! Powerful supporters quickly jumped on board, including Mike Leonard, then a young lawyer and now the chairman of the nationwide Land Conservation Fund. And a mere 2 ½ years after the founding of FROTH, it achieved its ultimate goal — federal designation of the Horsepasture as a Wild and Scenic River, signed into law in October 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. 20 years ago, Gorges became a state park instead of a hydroelectric dam, thanks to the efforts of one inspiring leader. Today, it’s still one of the most beautiful and best-kept secrets in Southern Appalachia. But he has been blessed with health that others might seem as a karmic reward for his good work but that he views as merely a pleasant mystery. He and Shirl still walk nearly every day in the community of tree huggers near Brevard where they settled in 1998. He still works on its trail-building crew. He still organizes its nature programs and sends out email blasts alerting residents to sightings of black bears and hummingbirds. When his friends describe his mental sharpness, they are not grading on the usual nonagenarian curve.  The Wall also catches windblown spores from ferns and mosses. At least that’s one theory for the variety of rare and endangered species that can be found here and nowhere else on Earth. The endangered Oconee Bell wildflower, almost unknown in the wild outside of this watershed, grows abundantly within it.     He also stuck to it through the process of acquiring and protecting the watershed — including more than 7,000 acres that became Gorges State Park — even though it proceeded at the more typical pace of environmental action. Very slowly. He retired from DuPont in 1989 to start a stint as statewide Sierra Club chairperson. He traveled to Washington D.C. to persuade federal lawmakers to acquire key portions of the old Carrasan property, now part of the Nantahala National Forest. He fought to block a powerline that ended up being built through the park. “We got our heads beat down on that one,” he said. And after Duke let it be known it was willing to sell its land in the mid 1990s, Thomas was Sierra’s point person on the creation of the park, putting him in the thick of the negotiations with hunters who at one point threatened to withdraw support for the acquisition. He played a crucial role in “elevating this issue among Sierra members,” said Diggins, which gave her the backing to lobby state lawmakers. And he did a fair amount of lobbying himself, seeking not only that the land be purchased but that most of it be designated as a state park. There’s an old saying that activists are divided among tree shakers— the inspirational, visionary types, and jelly makers—who do the sustained, detailed work. Thomas is both.  “I’d put him on top of the list of (volunteers) making the park happen and making it work,” said Superintendent Pagano. “Bill, you’re my hero,” Wilcox said. “I want to be you when I grow up.” One of his lobbying tools was a Jocassee Gorges hiking guide that Steve Pagano, park superintendent during its first 19 years, said might still be the best one published. Its maps and photos were supplemented with detailed passages on history, ecology and geology. No matter what issue he took on, Diggins said, he seemed to know every ecological asset, every threat, every political and bureaucratic key that needed turning.  But his awakening actually began a few years earlier when he met his second wife, Shirl, who also deserves a Gorges anniversary toast. At the time, Bill Thomas was working at the DuPont plant near Brevard. He was a lifelong birder and hiker, but also a lifelong Republican, a Sierra Club member uncomfortable with its advocacy. “After meeting Shirl,” he said, “I got retreaded.” Bill Thomas, taking in the views at Gorges State Park, thought about what this land could have been— a vast zone of hydroelectric projects, its famous waterfalls funneled through pipes, its wild rivers cooped up in basins designed to flush like toilets to produce surges of power. I observed firsthand his acuity and passion for nature, on a trip to the Gorges with Thomas and park ranger Neal Wilcox.  As we drove deep into the backcountry in a four-wheel drive pickup, Thomas let out spontaneous exclamations of enthusiasm. “Fantastic!” is a Thomas favorite. He explained how geology and erosion had created the vertiginous slopes of the gorges that Wilcox navigated. He identified the species of each bird that called and of the ground-hugging halberd violets and midstory silverbell trees. Once they saw the ad that threatened one of their favorite hiking spots, they set about researching the environment of the Jocassee Gorges and the approval process for Carrasan’s project. Meetings and phone calls consumed their evenings. Bill Thomas put the Xerox machine in his DuPont office into overdrive pumping out promotional literature. Though the ecological and recreational value of these gorges seems obvious now, it was once appreciated only by a few intrepid scientists and hikers. In the 1980s, its potential was all about hydroelectric power.last_img read more