Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer has pleaded guilty to two of the charges being made against him, in relation to his involvement in the Capitol riots of January 2021.
Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, including engaging in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray. The Washington Post reports that he pleaded guilty to only two charges, but both are felony offences. The two charges are obstructing an official proceeding of Congress, which carries a 20-year prison term, and trespassing on restricted grounds while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon, carrying up to a 10-year prison term.
Schaffer is currently awaiting sentencing. His plea bargain involves an agreement to cooperate with authorities against others in the case, as part of a wider effort to understand the scope of the organisation and planning that preceded the violent events of 6 January . The riots resulted in the deaths of five people: four police officers, and one protester.
Notably, Schaffer was photographed wearing a hat that declared him a “lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia organisation believed to be heavily involved in part of the organisation preceding the riots. While the full scope of his involvement in the group and his knowledge of other members was initially disputed, Plea papers submitted by the government, which Schaffer agreed to under oath, state: “Schaffer is a founding lifetime member of the Oath Keepers.”
In a statement about the plea, Schaffer’s attorney stated: “He is the first person to plead guilty in this historic investigation to take responsibility for his role in the Capitol riot. He contacted authorities as soon as he discovered he was a person of interest, and he self surrendered.”
Following the news that Schaffer was involved, his Iced Earth bandmates distanced themselves from his actions. Singer Stu Block and bassist Luke Appleton posted separate statements on social media, announcing their resignation. Appleton wrote: “In response to recent events & circumstances, I have notified Iced Earth’s management and Jon that I will be resigning as the Iced Earth bassist with immediate effect.”
He also extended gratitude to “everyone who has sent me their support and love during this difficult time.”
Block wrote in his statement: “Well, there are times and events when you have to take stock and re-evaluate your life, work, and trajectory for the future. That being said, I have informed Jon and his current management that I must announce my resignation from Iced Earth with immediate effect.”
Schaffer faces a recommended prison term of 41 to 51 months under nonbinding federal guidelines, though his sentence will ultimately be decided by a judge.