Two California men were charged with planning an explosive device attack on Democratic headquarters in Sacramento following last year’s presidential election.
The men were charged Thursday in federal court in San Francisco with conspiracy to demolish a building affecting international trade and other related crimes to attack John L. Burton’s Democratic headquarters in Sacramento.
Ian Rogers, 45, of Napa and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, according to court documents, began a series of “specific, detailed and serious” plans to attack the Democrats with incendiary devices after the 2020 presidential election. The men also sought support from militias in hopes that their attack would spark a movement to overthrow the government.
The charges come as authorities are on heightened alert for potential political violence following the January 6 invasion of Capitol Hill by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters trying to block the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
“Do you think there is something wrong with me, how excited I am to attack the Democrats?” Rogers asked Copeland on a messaging app last December.
Copeland, who was arrested on Wednesday, later told police that he did not take Rogers’ testimony seriously and only listened to him “blow off steam”.
However, court records show that Copeland encouraged Rogers’ discussions of violence with messages saying they would take action to keep Trump in office.
“When we see [Trump] can’t win, we hit, “said Copeland in a message.” If they don’t listen to Trump, they will hear us.
Copeland also contacted the Proud Boys and Three Percenters, two extreme anti-government militia groups, and attempted to recruit individuals for their conspiracy in late December, authorities said.
Court records show that Copeland joined the military in 2013 but was arrested twice for desertion and released instead of court martial in 2016. He then joined the Three Percenters and later became an officer in the militia group, court records say.
The two men continued to discuss violent attacks on Democrats after the January 6 election results were confirmed, the indictments read. Prosecutors alleged the Capitol uprising inspired them, citing Copeland’s excited messages that day fantasizing about violence.
“REVOLUTION”, “REVOLUTION”, “REVOLUTION” said Copeland about the uprising. “I’m f —— juiced !!!!!”
“Damn it, I want to roll in the bag armed,” said another message from him, referring to Sacramento and its military-style tactical equipment and weapons.
The Democratic headquarters in Sacramento was selected as their first target to attack with explosives, and the two men had discussed attacking Twitter and Facebook headquarters next, prosecutors indicted.
“Heads have to be taken,” said Copeland. “I don’t like to think about it, but I think we have to die for what we believe in.”
Rogers was arrested on January 15 and charged with possessing five pipe bombs and is in state custody in the Napa district on multiple gun charges. In addition to the pipe bombs, the authorities confiscated almost 50 firearms and around 15,000 rounds of ammunition from his home and business, according to a criminal complaint.
Materials used to make destructive devices were also found in his shop, including gunpowder, pipes, and end caps, as well as several manuals such as “The Anarchist Cookbook,” the “US Army Improvised Munitions Handbook,” and “Homemade C-4: A Recipe for that Survive, “says the complaint.
Authorities also reported discovering a sticker on Rogers’ vehicle window that is commonly used by Three Percenters.
The day after Rogers’ arrest, Copeland deleted all previous communications with Rogers for fear of being followed.
Court records also allege that Copeland is abusing anabolic steroids, finding a $ 1,200 purchase of steroids in December and the seizure of steroids from his home in January.
“The danger he poses to anyone with opposing political views is obvious,” the court records said.
If convicted, the Justice Department says the two men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a three-year custody sentence and a $ 250,000 fine for conspiracy charges.
Rogers also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for his additional gun charges, and Copeland faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for his evidence destruction charge.
Rogers’ attorney declined CNBC’s request for comment and Copeland’s attorney was unavailable for comment.
“Bombardments on supposed political opponents are illegal and do not promote the open and energetic debate that our constitutional democracy has created and supported,” said US Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. “The charges in the indictment describe despicable behavior. Identifying and prosecuting those who prefer violence to discussion is as important as anything else we do to protect our free society.”
Rusty Hicks, chairman of the California Democratic Party, called their alleged conspiracy “extremely worrying”.
“We are relieved to know that the conspiracy was unsuccessful, those allegedly responsible are in custody and our staff and volunteers are safe and sound,” Hicks said in a statement Thursday. “Still, it points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse.”
– CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Amanda Macias contributed to this report.