Capitol riot: Man charged with Champaign County duo, Warren County couple released

A Virginia man who is charged along with four local residents in connection to the Jan. 6 Washington D.C. Capitol riot was ordered released from jail pending trial weeks after he was initially denied relief.

Thomas Caldwell was ordered to home confinement by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. During a hearing, Mehta pointed out that there isn’t evidence that Caldwell entered the capitol.

“There are no text message communications by him that speak to actually entering the building or trying to enter the building, and ultimately he did not enter the building,” Mehta said.

Caldwell is charged with eight other people, including four southwest Ohio residents. Champaign County residents Jessica Watkins and Donovan Crowl are still in jail pending trial, although their attorneys have indicated they are working to free them. Warren County residents Bennie and Sandra Parker are free pending their trial.

Caldwell is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property and entering and remaining in a building or restricted building or grounds and tampering with evidence. The indictment filed in the case alleges the defendants were co-conspirators who planned to disrupt the Congressional proceedings to certify the presidential election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The government has argued that Watkins, Crowl and Caldwell were either members or associated with the Oath Keepers, a loosely organized group of militia members who believe “the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

Caldwell has denied being associated with the Oath Keepers.

In a previous hearing, prosecutors said they had messages in which he worked with others to arrange hotel rooms and transportation. They also said that he discussed transporting weapons across the Potomac River by boat.

Caldwell’s lawyer, David Fischer, argued in court filings that the government has provided no evidence that the riot was planned.

“Caldwell asks rhetorically: Doesn’t the court find it odd that the government hasn’t outlined the specifics of the premeditated plan? What time was the ‘invasion’ scheduled to begin? Who would lead the attack? What was the goal once the planners entered the Capitol? Who was the leader in the attack? What was the exit strategy of the planners? The government’s indictment and arguments are heavy on dramatic language, but light on specifics. Instead, the government’s ‘evidence’ consists almost entirely of their dubious interpretations of social media posts, text messages, and the like,” the attorney wrote.

He also said Caldwell is a disabled veteran who was using a wheelchair in jail and was in extreme pain.

A next court date has been set for April 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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