WASHINGTON – A member of the Oath Keepers was sentenced today for her role in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Her actions and the actions of others disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress that was in the process of ascertaining and counting the electoral votes related to the 2020 presidential election.
Laura Steele, 55, of Thomasville, North Carolina, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, six months of home confinement, and 36 months of supervised release.
In March of 2023, a federal jury convicted Steele, a former police officer, and four other co-defendants of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, a felony. Steele was also convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiring to prevent an officer of the United States from discharging a duty, interfering with officers in a civil disorder, destruction of government property, and destroying evidence after the fact—all felonies.
Court documents say that on January 6th, Oath Keepers leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, who was convicted in an earlier trial of seditious conspiracy and related charges, sent a message in an encrypted group chat announcing that former Vice President Michael R. Pence would not intercede to stop Congress' certification of the electoral college vote, and so "patriots" were taking matters into their own hands. Moments later, a group of Oath Keepers, including Steele, began their march toward the Capitol.
According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial, on the afternoon of January 6, when it became clear that Congress was going forward with the certification of the 2020 presidential election, Steele and four of her co-defendants donned paramilitary gear and clothing and marched with other Oath Keepers members and affiliates to the United States Capitol. When the group arrived on the Capitol grounds, a leader of the group—Kelly Meggs—announced that they were going inside the Capitol to stop the vote count. In response, Steele joined hands on shoulders with eleven other members of their group and moved, in a coordinated and calculated fashion, up the steps of the Capitol in a military "stack" formation.
At the top of the steps, the group joined the mob of other rioters who had overcome officers guarding the door. Once inside, the group split up. Half the group, including defendant Laura Steele, joined rioters attempting to push their way through a line of Metropolitan Police Department Officer (MPD) officers guarding a hallway that led to the Senate Chamber. The officers were forced to deploy chemical spray to hold back the mob. Steele and others then retreated, regrouped, exited the Capitol, and met up with the other members of the Oath Keepers.
This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia with assistance provided by the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Valuable assistance was provided by U.S. Attorney's Offices throughout the country.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington and Charlotte Field Office. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.
In the 32 months since Jan. 6, more than 1,100 people have been charged in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 398 charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, a felony. The investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.