Two California men have been indicted for allegedly plotting to attack the Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento with explosive devices following last year’s presidential election.
The men were charged Thursday in a San Francisco federal court with conspiracy to destroy a building affecting interstate commerce and other related crimes, in a scheme to attack the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento.
Ian Rogers, 45, of Napa, and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, began plotting a series of “specific, detailed, and serious” plans to attack Democrats with incendiary devices after the 2020 presidential election, according to court documents. The men also attempted to gain support from militia groups 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 Jan. 6 invasion of Capitol Hill by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who sought to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
“Do you think something is wrong with me how I’m excited to attack the democrats?” Rogers asked Copeland on a messaging app last December.
Copeland, who was arrested Wednesday, later told police that he didn’t take Rogers’ statement seriously and was only listening to him “blow off steam.”
But court records indicate that Copeland encouraged Rogers’ discussions about violence with messages stating that they would take action to keep Trump in office.
“If we see [Trump] can’t win we strike,” Copeland said in one 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 to join their plot in late December, authorities said.
Court records state that Copeland had joined the military in 2013 but was arrested for desertion twice and was discharged in 2016 in lieu of court martial. He then joined the Three Percenters and later became an officer within the militia group, court records say.
The two men continued discussions of violent attacks on Democrats after election results were certified on Jan. 6, according to the charges. Prosecutors alleged that the insurrection at the Capitol had inspired them, citing Copeland’s excited messages on that day that fantasized about violence.
“REVOLUTION,” “REVOLUTION,” “REVOLUTION,” Copeland said about the insurrection. “I’m f—— juiced!!!!!”
“Damnit I wanna roll into sac geared up,” another message of his said, referring to Sacramento and his military-style tactical gear and weapons.
The Democratic headquarters in Sacramento was selected as their first target to attack with explosive devices, and the two men had discussed attacking the Twitter and Facebook headquarters next, prosecutors charged.
“Heads must be taken,” Copeland said. “I don’t like to think it but I think we will have to die for what we believe in.”
Rogers was arrested on Jan. 15 accused of possessing five pipe bombs and remains in state custody in Napa County on multiple weapons charges. In addition to the pipe bombs, authorities seized nearly 50 firearms and about 15,000 rounds of ammunition from his home and business, according to a criminal complaint.
Materials used to make destructive devices were also found at his business, including black powder, pipes and end caps and several manuals, such as “The Anarchist Cookbook,” the “U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook” and “Homemade C-4: A Recipe for Survival,” the complaint said.
Authorities also reported discovering a sticker on Rogers’ vehicle window that is commonly used by Three Percenters.
A day after Rogers’ arrest, Copeland purged all past communications with Rogers in fear of being traced.
Court records also allege Copeland abuses anabolic steroids, noting 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 two men could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a three-year term of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge, according to the Department of Justice.
Rogers also faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for his additional weapons charge, and Copeland faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for his destruction of evidence charge.
Rogers’ attorney declined CNBC’s request for comment, and Copeland’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
“Firebombing your perceived political opponents is illegal and does not nurture the sort of open and vigorous debate that created and supports our constitutional democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. “The allegations in the indictment describe despicable conduct. Investigation and prosecution of those who choose violence over discussion is as important as anything else we do to protect our free society.”
Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party, called their alleged plot “extremely disturbing.”
“We are relieved to know the plot was unsuccessful, the individuals believed to be responsible are in custody, and our staff and volunteers are safe and sound,” Hicks said in a statement Thursday. “Yet, 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.