Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer Pleads Guilty to Two Charges for His Role in the Capitol Riot

  • Axl Rosenberg

As expected, Iced Earth mastermind Jon Schaffer, who notoriously participated in the seditious riot at the Capitol on January 6, has reportedly entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors.

As part of the deal, Schaffer will cooperate with authorities (i.e., rat on other rioters) and plead guilty to two of the six charges brought against him after the riot: “Obstruction of an Official Proceeding” and “Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building or Grounds with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon.” The former charge carries a prison sentence of up to twenty years; the latter charge, a mere ten.

We can presume that in exchange for his cooperation, prosecutors have agreed to drop the other charges against him and recommend a reduced prison term — although that hasn’t been confirmed.

Schaffer’s identity quickly spread in the days following the riots after being spotted in a widely circulated photo. Both the Washington, D.C. police and the FBI quickly announced that he was wanted for questioning; he turned himself into authorities on January 17 and has remained in jail since.

Attorneys for Schaffer had filed a motion in early March to dismiss all charges leveled against him, claiming a violation of The Speedy Trial Act, which specifies an indictment or information must be brought against a detainee within 30 days. Last week, Schaffer agreed to temporarily forego the rights afforded to him by that act and extend his detention until May 3, arguing that his defense team needed more time to prepare their case. Both parties agreed that the increased length of Schaffer’s detention before his trial will not count towards enforcement of the Speedy Trial Act, which Schaffer’s counsel had previously cited after he spent 48 days in an Indiana jail before extradition to Washington, D.C. Delays have been caused by a backlog in cases related to the January 6 Capitol riots; as of March 10, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington had taken on more than 250 cases, most related to the riot at the Capitol, compared to less than 20 in the same time period in 2020.

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, and initially faced six federal charges (four of which have now been dropped):

  • “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”

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.


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