WASHINGTON – A man linked by prosecutors to the Oath Keepers and Republican strategist Roger Stone was arrested Monday in New York and charged with criminal involvement in the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Roberto Minuta, 36, of Texas is accused of obstructing the formal counting of presidential election votes, trespassing and attempting to cover up his crimes. He was ordered released on a $125,000 bond over the objections of federal prosecutors.
“I think it is not a stretch to think Mr. Minuta, if called upon to do so, would participate in an armed rebellion yet again even on pretrial release,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said in court. His recent statements to law enforcement “represent a lack of remorse and an ongoing allegiance to the ideology” behind the assault on the Capitol.
Gianforti said Minuta came to the Capitol dressed in gear identifying him as a member of the militant right-wing Oath Keepers group – citing a video in which he appears with Stone that morning. Federal prosecutors have said members of the Oath Keepers conspired to storm the Capitol to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.
Minuta was carrying a firearm and pepper or bear spray on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors; he was also armed when he was arrested Saturday at his tattoo parlor in New York. After his arrest, he questioned why antifa and Black Lives Matter adherents were not being targeted instead, Gianforti said.
The Justice Department and the FBI are investigating whether Stone and other high-profile right-wing figures played a role in the insurrection by promoting false claims that the election victory was stolen from President Donald Trump. Stone, a longtime Trump friend and adviser, was involved in some events on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 and says they were peaceful protests. While investigators are interested in how the rioters became radicalized, they caution that criminal charges against Stone and others who spread misinformation are a distant prospect given case law on incitement and free speech.
Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has publicly distanced himself from the violence and criticized it, saying that there is no evidence that he had knowledge of the attack and that any implication otherwise is “guilt by association.” In an interview with the Tennessee Star last month, Stone said he had hired private security and did not know any of the men around him that day.
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has said he gave no direction or signals to members to storm the Capitol.
In a charging document, prosecutors note that Minuta was made a “lifetime Oath Keeper” last year after pledging to open his New York tattoo parlor in defiance of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus.
According to prosecutors, on Jan. 6, Minuta “aggressively taunted and berated law enforcement officers guarding the Capitol” outside and inside the building. After the riot, Gianforti said, Minuta tried to conceal his involvement by ditching his cellphone and canceling his Verizon plan. His Facebook account was also deleted, but Gianforti said it was not clear whether he took it down himself.
Minuta’s court-appointed lawyer, Benjamin Gold, described Minuta as a husband, father and exemplary member of the community who held charity fundraisers and served as an active member of his New Jersey church before a recent move to Texas. A pastor from the church wrote a letter advocating for his release, as did a state court judge related to Minuta. Minuta might use $45,000 worth of silver bars, described in court as an investment for his children, to secure his bond.
“If he was evading arrest like the government did suggest, he would not have gone to work,” Gold said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Krause granted Minuta’s bid for release, requiring him to surrender all 10 of his registered weapons. He will be allowed to fly to New York for business.
Isaac Sturgeon, 32, of Dillon, Mont., also appeared in federal court in New York on Monday on charges related to the Capitol riot after being deported from Kenya and arrested on his return to John F. Kennedy Airport.
Sturgeon, who is charged with seven counts including assaulting police with a metal police barricade, flew to Africa on Jan. 24, one day after paying cash for a one-way ticket after texting others to ask whether he was wanted, prosecutors said in arguing he posed a flight risk. Sturgeon traveled from the District of Columbia to Florida and the Virgin Islands immediately after Jan. 6, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said.
Sturgeon had planned to stay in Kenya until April, McGrath said.
Sturgeon told the court that he traveled frequently, adding, “I wasn’t trying to flee.”
A U.S. magistrate ordered Sturgeon released to Montana with location monitoring on $250,000 bond, secured by a $90,000 plot of land he owns and commitments by his parents and family friends.
In D.C. federal court, a judge declined to release Jacob Chansley, drawing on an interview the self-described “QAnon Shaman” gave to CBS’s “60 Minutes Plus” last week. In the interview, Chansley blamed Trump for what happened on Jan. 6 but said he did not regret his loyalty to the former president. His mother, who lives with him in Arizona, told CBS that Biden’s election was fraudulent.
“If the defendant truly believes that the only reason he participated in an assault on the U.S. Capitol was to comply with President Trump’s orders, this shows the defendant’s inability (or refusal) to exercise his independent judgment and conform his behavior to the law,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote.