Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer Was Allegedly One of the First Rioters To Enter the Capitol; Bail Remains Denied
A “motion to amend detention order” filed by Marc Victor, attorney for Iced Earth/Demons & Wizards guitarist Jon Schaffer, has been denied by a federal judge. Schaffer will therefore remain ineligible for bail. He currently awaits trial in Washington, D.C. for his role seditious riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Victor filed the motion after a judge denied Schaffer bail last week.
In a March 24 “order of detention pending trial,” a judge argued that Schaffer remains a “danger to the community” despite not being a flight risk. As evidence, the judge pointed to a video interview from a pro-Trump rally in November of 2020, during which Schaffer told a reporter that “If someone wants to bring violence, we’re ready for that” before asserting that “there will be a lot of bloodshed.” The judge says this interview demonstrates Schaffer’s action were “not an isolated event.”
The judge further argues that “Mr. Schaffer appeared in the video to be one of the first people to breach the Capitol” and that “There is some evidence, and evidence still being developed, that defendant is affiliated with groups that present ongoing threats,” such as the domestic terrorist group known as the Oath Keepers. (The Oath Keepers have denied any affiliation with Schaffer).
You can read the judge’s entire motion below:
“In response to the Government’s exhibit of Mr. Schaffer speaking at a rally in November 2020, Mr. Schaffer argues that he was simply explaining his political views. When asked about violence in the video interview, Mr. Schaffer responded that he didn’t want violence, but that he was prepared to meet any violence with self defense. In response to the video that shows him entering the Capitol, Mr. Schaffer argues he was only in the building for 60 seconds and only unholstered the bear spray in question because he thought someone was trying to take it. Mr. Schaffer said he is not a flight risk because he voluntarily contacted his lawyer and surrendered himself. He is a high profile musician so would have difficulty fleeing. He has a stable girlfriend, stable residence, and a daughter. He is 52 years old with no criminal history or substance abuse problems. Mr. Schaffer argues the weight of the evidence is weak, as the Government did not provide evidence that he knowingly entered the Capitol building unlawfully. There was no evidence of violence presented and Mr. Schaffer says he is not affiliated with the ‘Oath Keepers.’
“Mr. Schaffer is charged with carrying a dangerous weapon (bear spray) onto restricted, Capitol grounds. His actions on January 6, 2021, during the certification of the electoral college vote, were shocking to the rule of law and the democratic process. As Chief Judge Howell noted in United States v. Barnett, the title of the offense does not ‘properly capture the scope of what [the defendant] is accused of doing here.’ In this case, there appears to be premeditation and a weapon present. Mr. Schaffer appeared in the video to be one of the first people to breach the Capitol. There is some evidence, and evidence still being developed, that defendant is affiliated with groups that present ongoing threats of danger to the community, e.g., the ‘Oath Keepers.’
“The government presented a number of exhibits at the detention hearing that show Mr. Schaffer was in possession of bear spray. There is video of him clearly entering the Capitol and three police officers that appear to fall back in self defense. Thus, it doesn’t seem likely or reasonable Mr. Schaffer was under the impression he was ‘invited in’ by Capitol law enforcement.
“Mr. Schaffer has no criminal history and no documented history of substance abuse. He is employed and has a stable residence. It is true he is within his rights to demonstrate and share his political views through lawful means. This case concerns unlawful means of demonstration. Mr. Schaffer’s status as a firearms owner does not have any bearing, negative or positive, on this decision.
“While Mr. Schaffer is most likely not a serious flight risk due to his status as a well-known musician, there remains the concern of danger to the community. Mr. Schaffer’s views on the government and current administration are long held. His statements, including the November 2020 interview, show that this was not an isolated event. He has stated there would be ‘bloodshed’ if the current administration came to power. This transfer of power has taken place, so it cannot be assured Mr. Schaffer will not engage in further violence to support his political ideology if released. The Government alleges Mr. Schaffer is a lifetime member of the ‘Oath Keepers,’ which is an organization that has questioned the legitimacy of the government and threatened political violence. Last, although Mr. Schaffer claimed he would only respond to violence in self defense, there was no violence directed against him on January 6, 2021, yet he engaged in violent and destructive behavior when he entered the Capitol armed with a weapon.”
Schaffer turned himself into the authorities on January 17 and was held in a Marion County, Indiana jail until on or around March 15, when he was finally extradited to Washington, D.C. to stand trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington has faced delays due to the unusually high caseload resulting from the Capitol riots, currently tasked with handling more than 250 such cases compared to 20 in the same time period in 2020.
Attorneys acting on behalf of Schaffer filed a motion on March 8 to dismiss all charges against him. Citing the Speedy Trial Act, they claimed that “no indictment or information has been filed within the time limit” of 30 days from arrest.
Schaffer is being represented by the Attorneys for Freedom Law Firm, a practice advertising a specialty in criminal defense, with offices located in Arizona and Hawaii.
The FBI Indianapolis Field Office indicated Schaffer, who allegedly sprayed Capitol police with bear spray, faces six federal charges:
- “Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority”
- “Disrupting the Orderly Conduct of Government Business”
- “Knowingly Engages in an Act of Physical Violence Against any Person or Property in any Restricted Building or Grounds”
- “Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct in a Capitol Building”
- “Engage in an Act of Physical Violence in a Capitol Building”
- “Parade, Demonstrate, or Picket in a Capitol Building”
Footage of Schaffer’s role in the riots that surfaced on February 16 seems to show him engaging in a physical fight with police officers attempting to protect the building.
Following his arrest, The New York Times reported that authorities believed Schaffer to be a member of the Oath Keepers, an organized, far-right militia group known as the Oath Keepers who planned the invasion of the building in advance, and can be seen wearing an Oath Keepers hat in photos from the insurrection. Days later, however, the Indiana chapter of the Oath Keepers released a statement in which they asserted that Schaffer is not a member of their organization.
Iced Earth vocalist Stu Block (ex-Into Eternity), bassist Luke Appleton, and guitarist Jake Dreyer (Witherfall) have since all announced their departure from Iced Earth. Vocalist Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) quit Schaffer’s other project, Demons & Wizards, earlier this month. Both of those bands no longer appear on the current or former artist pages of Schaffer’s longtime label, Century Media. The label has yet to issue a formal statement as to whether or not they’ve dropped the two acts.
Schaffer has been quite open about his far-right political views for years, openly discussing his mistrust of government (with a special emphasis on the federal reserve), asserting his belief that Trump’s loss in the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election was tipped by illegal immigrants, speaking out in favor of arming teachers to prevent school shootings, and claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax.