The testimony Tuesday by Jason Dolan was the first in the trial of several cooperating Oath Keepers witnesses who have pleaded guilty in the Capitol attack investigation. The Florida man and others are expected to be critical of prosecutors because they have admitted under oath what Rhodes and his co-defendants are accused of: plotting to obstruct and disrupt Congress by, as Dolan put it in the indictment, “intimidating and coercing government personnel .”
Prosecutors must show that even though Rhodes did not enter the building that day, he and co-defendants conspired to forcefully oppose the legal transition of presidential power, culminating in the Capitol attack, making Dolan a direct witness.
From Serbia to Roger Stone, Oath Keepers trial traces threads of alleged January 6 plot
Dolan, a 19-year-old former Marine and infantry unit leader, recalled to jurors how he sent an encrypted message to fellow Oath Keepers members in Florida on Dec. 6, 2020, agonizing over whether, after serving five overseas deployments, he should ask his family to let him go into battle again. But this time it would be against other Americans, “no pay, no return, no awards, no homecoming, and if I’m lucky, I’ll get a prison sentence, branded with treason, or a bullet from the very people I wanted to protect.”
On the stand, Dolan said he understood it “would be treasonous fighting against what I saw as an illegitimate form of government,” but that the Oath Keepers had discussed and Rhodes had stated that even if President Donald Trump did nothing, they do it. That meant, Dolan said, “We will act to stop the certification of the election … by any means necessary. That’s why we brought our firearms.”
Dolan said his understanding was that if Trump called on a private militia to keep him in office, “we would basically be fighting pro-Trump forces against pro-Biden forces.”
“Within the United States government?” asked U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler.
“Yes,” Dolan replied, saying the pro-Trump side would have fought forces loyal to Congress and Democrats on the other side.
Dolan, 46, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to conspiracy and aiding and abetting to prevent congressional confirmation of the 2020 election results.
A former security guard and head of shipping and receiving for a Four Seasons resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Dolan admitted to being among a group that forced its way through the Capitol’s East Rotunda doors after marching single file up the stairs, wearing camouflage vests, helmets, goggles and Oath Keeper’s insignia.
Dolan cooperated in hopes of reducing a likely five-to-seven-year prison sentence, saying he brought a rifle, handgun and ammunition to the Washington area with others in the group, who stashed weapons at a Ballston hotel in case of a ” Quick Reaction Force” (QRF) was needed. Dolan said he communicated, met with and identified at the defense table Rhodes and Florida co-defendants Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson.
Inside the Capitol, Dolan testified, he repeatedly shouted “Treason!” Him too believed lawmakers might be “scared into doing the right thing” and later blocked the investigation by resetting his cell phone, deleting photographs from inside the Capitol and encrypting communications, he said.
Dolan’s appearance at Rhodes’ trial, now in its third week, and testimony from one of three others who have admitted to the seditious conspiracy could be central to whether prosecutors can distinguish the actions of Rhodes and his co-defendants from the nearly 300 who is accused. to attempt or conspire to obstruct Congress, but not to use force to oppose the government. .
Only 19 people – all associated with the extremist right-wing groups Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – have been charged with seditious conspiracy, accused of playing a major role in mobilizing and planning violence that day. Both conspiracy and revolting conspiracy charges are punishable by the same maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Rhodes and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers have said the QRF was only for defensive purposes in case Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to mobilize the military and militia to stay in power. Their lawyers have also said they obeyed all firearms laws and that they came to Washington as a peacekeeping force and security guards for Republican VIPs.
Through more than a dozen witnesses so far, prosecutors have shown jurors many of the military-style rifles Oath Keepers members brought to the area, including Dolan’s, which he said he recognized because he built it himself.
On Monday, FBI Special Agent Sylvia Hilgeman testified that Rhodes spent as much as $20,000 en route to Washington to buy at least three rifles and a semi-automatic shotgun, part of $150,000 he withdrew from an Oath Keeper’s bank account for January 2021.
“The point of the QRF was to prevent Biden from taking power in whatever form that took,” Hilgeman testified. “I think the QRF was meant to occupy DC”
Dolan testified that he was prepared to take up arms with divided federal forces. But he said his path to that point was “pretty naive and downright stupid” in retrospect. He said he was grateful Trump did not spark further violence.
Oath Keeper’s attorney Kellye SoRelle filed charges on Jan. 6
Dolan was not charged with seditious conspiracy, an offense that, if convicted, would have ended his military benefits, which help support his wife and daughter. He said he quit his hotel job just before undergoing hip replacement surgery in 2018 or 2019 — the culmination of five or six procedures for “long-term issues, gut issues and really bad hip and foot injuries” from military service.
In 2020, he said he spent “a lot of time in the garage at night drinking and trying to kill the pain” with anything from a six-pack of beer to half a bottle of vodka by himself before discovering Oath Keepers.
“It felt good to know there were other people out there who felt the same way I did,” Dolan said. He considered the group “patriotic for our country” and believed “the same idea that the election had been stolen, or at least thought it had been stolen.”
Dolan said that if a handful of people fight against what they see as “an illegitimate form of government, [they] would be thrown into prison.”
By contrast, Oath Keepers said on Signal, “10,000 people” would give you a war. When he went to the Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Dolan told jurors, “Here you had 100,000 people who looked like they were [angry] that day. At least it seemed to me that if anything was going to happen to stop the certification of the election, that would be it.”