Tables Flipped: With Cooperation Agreement, Oath Keeper Jon Schaffer Will Get Protection from US Marshals

As I’ve been suggesting might happen for some time, heavy metal musician Jon Schaffer just pled guilty, the first of any January 6 defendants to plead guilty. While many of the documents pertaining to his plea have not been released yet, his information has. He pled guilty to Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Entering a Restricted Area with a Deadly Weapon (for the bear spray he sprayed at police). On the Obstruction charge, Schaffer is facing serious enhancements for the bear spray. But with the plea, Schaffer will avoid what was surely going to be an assault charge, as well as inclusion in the Oath Keeper conspiracy. And all that’s before the cooperation he has agreed to provide prosecutors, which should help him cut his criminal exposure significantly, especially as the very first January 6 defendant to plead guilty.

From the sounds of things — prosecutor Ahmed Baset described Schaffer as the “tip of the mob” breaching the building and said he entered at 2:40 — Schaffer will be implicated in the breach of the east entrance to the Capitol, meaning his testimony may implicate everyone who went in with him (likely including all the currently charged Oath Keepers, Joe Biggs, and several other Proud Boys). [Update: Schaffer went in the west door, not the east one, but the timing is still of acute interest, as it means the door Schaffer went in was breached at the same time as the east door.] DOJ might be thinking of naming Schaffer an unindicted co-conspirator on the Oath Keeper conspiracy, which would put all of them on the hook for Schaffer’s violent actions, dramatically increasing their criminal exposure.

In addition, Schaffer’s plea sets an important precedent on several legal issues that will be contested by other defendants, Oath Keeper or not. Those include:

  • Whether bear spray is a deadly weapon (which will affect the men accused of attacking Brian Sicknick and others — like Roberto Minuta — who brought bear spray into the Capitol)
  • Whether the vote count and Mike Pence’s presence in the Capitol made the building a “restricted building” for the purpose of 1752
  • Whether obstruction — normally used for criminal prosecutions — applies to the vote count (this is particularly critical, as it is how DOJ has made participation in the insurrection a felony for the more serious defendants)
  • Whether two enhancements — for violence and significant interference — apply to the obstruction charge

As Judge Amit Mehta noted, this doesn’t preclude litigation in other cases, but both sides agreed that this legal stance applies to the January 6 riot.

Schaffer will be released from jail, meaning he can return to touring as a musician (which was likely one of the big inducements for him to plead).

But the most remarkable thing about this plea agreement comes with the public nature of it. Mehta had thought that DOJ would want to do this in sealed fashion, but Baset was quite clear that DOJ wanted this to be public. That means everyone will know that Schaffer is a key witness against a highly trained militia.

And one of the things Mehta seems to have raised in a closed part of the hearing is that that puts Schaffer at great risk.

So DOJ agreed that Schaffer — who on January 5 was among the Oath Keepers purportedly providing “security” for Roger Stone — will be provided security by US Marshals under DOJ’s witness protection program.

A member of Roger Stone’s “security” detail will for the foreseeable future, then, be provided with “security” by the US government.

Update: Here’s his plea. He signed it Wednesday, which means it’s likely he had a grand jury appearance Friday morning before he allocuted before Judge Mehta. [Fixed my day of the week problems.]

Update: They’ve calculated Schaffer’s base offense level, before reductions for pleading, to be 25, which would represent a sentence of 57-71 months in the sentencing table. If they add Schaffer as an unindicted co-conspirator to the Oath Keeper conspiracy, it would put them on the hook for his violence, even before the conspiracy charge.

Update: I was being a bit loose with my reference to Stone. The Oath Keepers, in which Schaffer has pled to be a member, provides security for Stone. While Schaffer associates with some of the people who did provide security, there’s no evidence he personally did.

122 replies
  1. John Paul Jones says:

    Ah the irony. Delicious.
    Also, if I understand this correctly, Witness Protection doesn’t always mean a new identity in a new town, just – protection, open-ended. Apart from it being a different agency, it’s almost like he’s an ex-President.

        • M Smith says:

          He’d have to get the band back together first as two members quit in protest of Schaffers activities. According to the journalistic powerhouse TMZ “With Stu and Luke out of the band, Iced Earth is down to just 2 members … drummer Brent Smedley and Schaffer. Meanwhile, Iced Earth guitarist Jake Dreyer is distancing himself from the band.”

          • bmaz says:

            Even if he could, many jurisdictions may not allow him in. Canada is famously tough in this regard, and the EU may not want him either.

  2. Molly Pitcher says:

    I would think that the RWNJs will take his freedom to tour with US Marshall protection as a challenge. Can the recorded testimony of a witness who has plead guilty be entered in evidence posthumously ?

    • John Lehman says:

      An isolated cabin in the Canadian Northwest Territories could be very lovely or so could many areas in spacious Siberia.

      …..what target on his back?

        • John Lehman says:

          Understood….just hope you have open borders and room for a couple of Oregonian pensioners if MAGA takes over again…really don’t enjoy their torch light goose stepping style.

          • Appaulled says:

            We do not need any Americans in Canada just now. Stay where you are and help clean up the mess there.

            [Welcome to emptywheel. We get the point. Your second comment was deleted as it was duplicative. /~Rayne]

            • Rayne says:

              You deal with Canada’s inability to provide vaccines on a timely basis to its nation as well as its ongoing violations of First Nations’ sovereignty and human rights, we’ll keep our assholes south of the border, and after Trumpism US doesn’t need any Fordism.

      • Tom says:

        In the Great White North he might finally have a use for that bear spray against the local grizzly and polar bear population.

        • John Lehman says:

          Yes…and he’d better clean up that soul staining racist contamination he’s picked up from the MAGAs and make peace with the Intuit and other First Nation Peoples living there.

          Polar bears are extremely mean, he’ll need all the friends he can find.

    • Tom says:

      “If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
      If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise …”

  3. Raven Eye says:

    Regarding the bear spray…Will the prosecution have to prove it is more deadly that, lets just say, a banana peel?

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Might easily provoke an allergic reaction in some folks, e.g., death by anaphylactic shock. Since the person wielding the spray cannot know who those susceptible persons are in advance, using it indiscriminately shows a reckless disregard for life. So yeah, deadly in that sense. I once saw a person almost die from a bee sting. Fortunately, a campus doctor and nurse arrived literally running within about three minutes and she didn’t die.

      • bjet says:

        Bear spray is designed & approved for use on bears, in places like Alaska; not on humans at our capital, where there are no bears.

            • Molly Pitcher says:

              Which brings to mind the beloved Far Side cartoon, at least in our house, of two polar bears looking at an igloo. One says to the other, “I love these things, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside ! “.

              • Kevin Bullough says:

                On my fridge is the one with a bunch of deer in the forest, all staring at a deer that has concentric rings on its belly, and the caption is, “Bummer of a birthmark, Hal!”

        • Raven Eye says:

          Fewer these days. Some years back the National Zoo decided that with DC’s summers, a south-facing enclosure wasn’t really a good idea for Polar Bears.

      • cavenewt says:

        “Might easily provoke an allergic reaction in some folks, e.g., death by anaphylactic shock.”

        By that logic offering peanuts to strangers could be considered assault with a deadly weapon. Even if unsalted.

  4. Matthew Harris says:

    I imagine that the main purpose of the cooperation agreement is that they want someone to prove intent. For the Oath Keepers et al, the prosecution obviously has physical evidence of where they were and what they were doing, so his testimony can mostly be about the “why”—that people specifically wanted to obstruct the vote.

  5. Matthew Harris says:

    Also, I am not familiar with his band—are they actually popular? Was he making substantial money from touring?

    And did his audience fall in any type of ideological niche? Because if his audience was mostly Trump fans, then he isn’t going to be popular for cooperating. And if they were mostly not, he isn’t going to be popular for supporting Trump.

    From what I can tell from just searching wikipedia, they are pretty well known in heavy metal circles, but not super-popular. I guess I don’t know much about the demographics of heavy metal to be able to guess?

    • BobCon says:

      You could get a flavor of how things might turn out from the movie Green Room with Patrick Stewart and Alia Shawkat.

    • Scott P says:

      I -am- quite familiar with the band Iced Earth and others of its ilk. I would consider myself myself a fan of the band until…. this nonsense. Three members quit the band (1) and it’s unclear if it’s still a band with only two left (including Schaffer).

      This type of metal is pretty obscure to the lay-person and generally appeals across many types, not “mostly Trumpers” but it isn’t really anti-Trump either. Interest in obscure metal, in my experience, cuts across many lines. Metal is pretty highly anti-establishment and consists mostly of white people, a demographic that’s pretty prone to being Trumpy. But at the same time, this genre is primarily NOT very US and very european so you get a very liberal pull from there. Go to a concert and you’ll find a mix of Egalitarian liberals all the way to skinheads.

      As for Iced Earth itself, there isn’t much in the way of an overt and consistent ideology for the band, as its music basically didn’t touch politics. For instance, they released an album based entirely off of the graphic novel Spawn. One of his collaborations is Demons and Wizards with the singer Hansi Kursch from Blind Guardian who is german (who subsequently disbanded the project after Schaffer’s escapade) (2).


      • Knox Bronson says:

        The liberal pull you mention doesn’t seem to apply to the original Norwegian black metal bands. They were burning down churches and at least one gay black metal musician was murdered by Varg Vikernes, of the one-man-black-metal-band Burzum. Lots of ultra-nationalists in the scene. They hate all the Middle Eastern “desert” religions. Very interesting documentary about the scene: “Until The Light Takes Us.” Not sure where it’s available online. That said, black metal is just a subset of heavy metal.

      • Eureka says:

        Do you know anything about another of the bands his wiki (at least some weeks ago) had had listed as his, Sons of Liberty? (That band had no wiki link of its own.)

  6. Jon says:

    Iced Earth were actually bigger overseas (specifically Europe) than they were in the States. Their lyrical themes are often political in nature but also fantastical, but do often contain revolutionary themes. Schaffer was making pretty good money with the band, and his bandmates/employees were probably being paid fairly well for the genre (full-time job money, but not necessarily getting rich). His side-project Demons and Wizards had a headlining slot at some major European festivals, though many of those fans were bigger fans of the other side of the collaboration (Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian).

    He probably has a net worth of a couple million from his musical career. He was no pop star, but he was successful, and he was a fool to give it up. I imagine him, based on his lyrics, as worshipping the Founding Fathers and the revolutionaries of old, and this was his chance to live his dream. Now he loses everything and goes to jail.

    • bmaz says:

      Interesting, and thank you. I know a lot of music fairly well, but had never heard of them, Iced Earth that is, before. I recognize the name Demons and Wizards, but have no idea why exactly.

      And welcome to EW comments, please join in more often.

      • Jackknife of Sarlona says:

        Demons and Wizards is the Uriah Heep album featuring the song Easy Livin’.

        I like a bit of heavy metal, but I haven’t heard much Iced Earth.

        • bmaz says:

          Heh, that is probably exactly where I recognized it from. I may even still have that album somewhere. And Easy Living is a very kick ass song. Saw UH back in the day, along with Deep Purple and BOC, they were as loud of a band as I can remember.

          • Jackknife of Sarlona says:

            It is a kick ass song. They are a good band, although I only have a few of their albums.

            Heavy metal became huge when I was a teenager, but it led me right to the truly great music like Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Sabbath, etc,

            And BOC was one of the last shows I saw before the pandemic started.

              • Jackknife of Sarlona says:

                Unfortunately, no. I was ten at the time, and not in to either band then.

                I have seen the video for it several times when I was younger. It would have been great to be there.

          • John Paul Jones says:

            Indeed my ears may still be ringing from the Deep Purple concert I went to in the early 70s. One odd thing I noticed after a while was that RIchie Blackmore had half the stage to himself, with the rest of the band crowded over on the other half. He had a really long cord for his guitar so he could dance around with it, but that invisible line down the middle of the stage, half for him, half for the others, struck me as supremely weird. Of course, I had smoked a variety of substances prior to the show starting, so I might’ve been imagining it.

            • bmaz says:

              Naw, Blackmore was indeed weird. But, man could he play. Whole band was equally good though, and Ian Gillan a very underrated front man.

            • ThomasH says:

              The original/proto metal band, Blue Cheer, had as their slogan “Louder than God!” And they were! The original guitarist quit the band partially because he was loosing his hearing.

              • TooLoose LeTruck says:

                Heh… I did some roadying back in the late 70’s and started noticing my ears still ringing at 4 in the morning, hours after the band had packed it in and we had all gone home…

                I live in the East Bay (Oakland) and about 15 years ago went to Yoshi’s down in Jack London Square to see a really good guitar player do a tribute to Jeff Beck… I kind of knew what to expect… the only way Beck could get those wonderful shattering harmonics he’s so famous for is to overdrive his amp to the max…

                So I took a set of earplugs with me, and as the guitar player was introduced w/ his band, I started putting in my earplugs. I looked around and saw maybe 6 or 8 other people putting their earplugs in too… clearly, they knew what was coming next…

                And as the guitarist started playing, I glanced around the room and couldn’t help but notice all the people who had these pained, horrified looks on their faces…

                The guy did a great Beck impersonation and boy, was he LOUD.

                • vvv says:

                  Perhaps interesting trivia: watch any Beck DVD of the last, say 7-10 years and you will see Marshall stacks, etc. Stage right you will see a cuppla-3 tweed Fender Pro, Jr.’s. More than one pro I know use those, and others use Fender Hot Rod Deluxes. They are (especially the latter, particularly for clubs) known as “pedal platforms”, fully tube, mass-produced and thus relatively inexpensive and easily replaced. They are mic’d thru the P.A., and help to keep the stage volume down. (The ProJr is considered the better-sounding of the two but is only 15 watts and must be mic’d, the HRDx is a loud 40 watts – enough for a small room). Keef is a big proponent of small amps, altho’ of course, his are vintage and tweaked.
                  Beck admits to tinnitus, BTW, Blackmore started Blackmore’s Night because of his hearing problems, Brian Johnson left AC/DC for a few years, Roger Miller of MOB, and Townshend … there are many such.
                  The well-financed are using a lot of digital stuff nowadays, Kemper, Line 6 Helix, with in-ears. Check out any recent live Cure videos to see ’em in use – Reeves Gabrels (Bowie’s former guitarist) and Smith have ’em in plain view.
                  Digital amps can be good for recording, IMO, but there’s really nothing like hot tubes, small amp or large – think a Tesla vs. a muscle car.
                  I bartended in dance clubs for a few years, always kept the P.A. to my left, and I have always insisted on playing stage right: I have tinnitus and loss in my left ear. I mostly blame it on crash cymbals.

            • ThomasH says:

              Being a Berkelian for most of my life, until retiring in 2017, I’ve spent my share of time in clubs around the Bay Area as well. …And I’ve got tinnitus to show for it!

    • gulageten says:

      Jon has always been a good negotiator vs. the label “suits”, and one of the more successful self-managed artists in the field… but there is no way he has made “millions” doing it. His income on the bulk of his catalog is based on whatever splits he signed for back in the 90s — i.e. not artist-friendly. Even the peak albums did not reach six-figure sales. So any real money he has made would be from merchandising and/or touring… but millions? After costs? Not realistic in my opinion.

      • timbo says:

        Could be substantial but yeah, not millions in all likelihood, at least not directly from royalties unless he owns his whole catalog?

    • Leoghann says:

      Although Schaffer’s lawyer said it was particularly important for him to be released to allow for the travel he is required to do as a musician, I’m chalking that up to standard rhetoric in motions for release, personalized for this particular client. As Scott P and Jon pointed out, Iced Earth is (was) one of those groups whose European popularity was greater than the American. Even though he has avoided indictment, Shaffer has now pled guilty to two federal felonies. He’ll have a hell of a time trying to be allowed entry to the EU, or any other European country. He now is the leader of no band at all, and will be a target any time he goes on stage. His new phalanx of US Marshals won’t play very well to metal audiences, either. His immediate relief at being out of jail may well turn to severe disappointment when he wakes up to the fact that his life, as he knew it, is over.

  7. Fran of the North says:

    This is a great step forward.

    I’ve long wondered why it seemed that the RWNJ’s got to use paint ball rifles and bear spray on others and seemed immune to assault charges. Looks like if you want to think about using or even carrying the latter, it might be more than a slap on the wrist.

  8. Norskeflamthrower says:

    Isn’t it wonderful when karma leads directly to irony?!! And ask me if I’m worried about Jon Shaffer’s health going forward.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Aaaaand, the first rat has jumped ship…

      Boy oh boy… sphincters must tightening all over the place…

      What would you call that…

      Karma and irony shacked up and had a baby…



      A big old slap upside the head?

      Whatever it is, it’s making my day…

      • Tom says:

        Just in time to address America’s “under-incarceration problem” that Senator Cotton has been talking about. I guess Joel Greenberg and Matt Gaetz can stand up and take a bow for doing their bit here as well.

      • ducktree says:


        The classic visual of the ob/gyn suspending freshly born infant by its ankles and applying a smart smack on the tuches for to clear out the amniotic/mucus plug.

        Good for baby!

  9. Matthew Harris says:

    Off-topic but related:

    One of the defendants (“Bull Horn Lady”) went to an event wearing a mesh mask with very obvious gaps in it, and it violated her probation, and is now getting questioned about it by a judge.

    It is interesting to me in reference to Schaffer because Schaffer must have come to the realization that his entire life was about to change. Rachel Powell, on the other hand, is basically still looking at it as a social media game of finding ways to “trigger the libs”.

    One thing that I have wondered about, is how much since January 6th has it sunk into the right-wing social media world that there might actually be consequences to things? Have the arrests had a ripple effect at all? I don’t use social media, and even less so in those circles, so I wondered if January 6th has been a turning point for people rethinking being “keyboard warriors”.

    • P J Evans says:

      The pic I saw of her with that “mask” on, it looked almost like the kind of plastic mesh they put on grapefruit to keep them from bruising in the shipping crate. Very obviously trying to do “letter of the order” rather than really following it.

    • subtropolis says:

      The video was made at a bookstore that she works at. Her employer is apparently also an “anti-mask” dipshit.

  10. BroD says:

    If I were a friend of his, I think I’d advise against going on tour, marshals notwithstanding. The money is in the book.

  11. harpie says:

    o/t DOJ files suit against Roger STONE, his WIFE, and more:
    5:39 PM · Apr 16, 2021

    DOJ filed a lawsuit today against ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone saying he owes nearly $2 million in unpaid taxes and penalties and that he and his wife used an LLC to “shield their personal income from enforced collection and fund a lavish lifestyle.” [links] [screenshots] [THREAD]

  12. harpie says:

    Laura Rozen on the DoJ investigating Kash PATEL story [linked above]:

    2:53 PM · Apr 16, 2021

    Some of the reporting in this is astonishing, and one has to wonder if Trump’s plan to install Patel as CIA dep director/acting director in December was linked to the advice he was getting on how to stage a coup [THREAD]

    3:23 PM · Apr 16, 2021

    Looking at the WH pool reports from Trump’s travel to the Army Navy game on Dec. 12. […] [<<< Day of second Million MAGA March]

    So whoever Trump discussed his plans for Patel with at the Army Navy game, he then leaves the game an hour earlier than scheduled, before half time. Flies back to WH. No one comes back to talk to press on plane. Doesn't say anything to press upon arrival at WH.

    In an interview Patel gave in Feb. that Ignatius references, he expresses frustration that a report he helped write was not declassified before Trump left office. But the piece quotes from the doc Patel has been complaining is still classified.

    • harpie says:

      I’m not on twitter, but read it all the time.
      Right now, and for about the past hour, I can’t access any of the accounts I usually read.

        • harpie says:

          huh…That IS weird!
          [I never access it from my phone. I don’t do anything with my phone except make phone calls and text to a very limited number of people, and take photos.]

        • What Constitution? says:

          Pretty spooky. Deep State, anybody?

          And maybe more Deep State: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani leading the Angels to their best start in team history — yet the spouse wouldn’t let me get any season tickets due to this “COVID” thing. That’s ominous. And the Angels turn out to be owned by a Trump supporter? What’s that about?

            • Rayne says:

              Twitter’s been having problems for most of the last 18 hours. Still having patchy service even now.

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