Leader of Alabama Chapter of Oath Keepers Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy and Obstruction of Congress for Efforts to Stop Transfer of Power Following 2020 Presidential Election
Defendant Participated in Plot to Use Force to Oppose Execution of U.S. Laws, Including the Attack on the Capitol During the Certification Proceeding
WASHINGTON – A regional leader of the Oath Keepers pleaded guilty today to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his actions before, during and after the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. His and others’ actions disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election.
Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol breach. As part of the plea agreement, James has agreed to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation.
As described in court documents, James is the regional leader in charge of the Alabama chapter of the Oath Keepers. The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom are associated with militias. Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel.
In his guilty plea, James, a military veteran, admitted that, from November 2020 through January 2021, he conspired with other Oath Keeper members and affiliates to use force to prevent, hinder and delay the execution of the laws of the United States governing the transfer of presidential power. He used encrypted and private communications, equipped himself with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and was prepared to answer a call to take up arms.
According to court documents, on Jan. 4, 2021, James and others traveled to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He brought a semi-automatic handgun and stored multiple firearms at a Virginia hotel. On Jan. 6, after learning the Capitol had been breached, James and others traveled to the Capitol on golf carts, driving around multiple barricades, including marked law enforcement vehicles. James was wearing a backpack, a combat shirt, tactical gloves, boots, a paracord attachment, and an Oath Keepers hat and patches. He and others unlawfully entered the Capitol together through the East Rotunda doors. Inside the Rotunda, James assaulted a Metropolitan Police Department officer by grabbing the officer’s vest and pulling him towards the mob. While pulling the officer, James yelled, “Get out of my Capitol! This is not yours! This is my Capitol!” James was expelled by law enforcement, including at least one officer who aimed chemical spray at him.
On the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, James and others heard that law enforcement was searching for them and immediately departed the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Soon after, James traveled to Texas to join with the leader of the Oath Keepers and other co-conspirators. There, he helped co-conspirators amass thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms, ammunition, and firearms equipment – some of which he later stored in storage sheds in Alabama – and prepared to distribute the equipment to others and to engage in violence in the event of a civil war.
James was arrested on March 9, 2021. He was among 11 defendants indicted on Jan. 12, 2022, in the District of Columbia on seditious conspiracy and other charges; the others have pleaded not guilty. James faces up to 20 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and up to 20 years for obstruction of an official proceeding, along with potential financial penalties. No sentencing date was set. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington and Birmingham Field Offices.
In the 13 months since Jan. 6, more than 750 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 235 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.