Lawyers for ICED EARTH guitarist Jon Schaffer have asked for a delay in sentencing in connection with his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Last August, a judge set a sentencing date of February 20, 2024 for Schaffer, who had previously “acknowledged being a founding life member” of the far-right extremist group Oath Keepers. But on Jan. 26, lawyers for the 55-year-old musician filed a “motion for continuation of the sentence or alternatively suspension of the sentence,” in part pending the outcome of Joseph W. Fischer v. United States, which the Supreme Court agreed to hear in December.
According to Politico, the issue is whether prosecutors and the Justice Department misused a 2002 law originally intended to curb financial crimes to prosecute a Jan. 6 defendant named Joseph Fischer.
If the court sides with Fischer, it will also call into question the use of the law against other Jan. 6 defendants — including Schaffer.
In the Supreme Court case, the only contentious provision of the Federal Penal Code is 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2), which criminalizes any attempt to “corruptly” obstruct, influence, or obstruct any official proceeding. The conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
According to NBC News, the provision was enacted in 2002 as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a bill passed in the wake of the Enron accounting scandal.
Therefore, the defendants say it was never intended to apply to an incident like January 6.
“The question before the Supreme Court is directly related to and affects the validity of Mr. Johnson’s plea and conviction. Schaffer and leads the government’s calculation as to the scope of his sentencing guidelines,” Jon’s lawyers wrote in their motion. “If Mr. If Dr. Schaffer is sentenced to prison under 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c) and the Obstruction Guidelines and begins serving his sentence, he will suffer irreparable harm as he loses his gainful job, uproots his life, and serves time for a felony that can be invalidated by Fischer’s outcome.
Moreover, continuing or remaining would also preserve valuable government resources and avoid potential post-conviction relief issues if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Fischer.
In January 2022, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta granted the U.S. government’s request to share sealed materials from the case involving Schaffer’s role in the U.S. Capitol riot case as a discovery in the three main Oath Keepers cases.
In May 2023, Mehta handed down an 18-year prison sentence to Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that ended with the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.
As part of his agreement in April 2021, Jon entered into a partnership agreement with the government.
According to CNN, Schaffer’s prosecutors and lawyers agreed to recommend that he be sentenced to between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half years in prison, based on how fruitful his cooperation with the government was.
The government agreed not to oppose Schaffer’s release during the sentencing phase.
Although Schaffer was initially charged with six crimes, including participating in an act of physical violence and targeting police with bear spray, he pleaded guilty to only two charges: obstruction of an official congressional proceeding. and trespassing on prohibited areas of the Capitol while armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
The first charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, while the second carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
In his plea agreement, Schaffer acknowledged that on January 6, 2021, he was in Washington to attend the “Stop The Steal” rally in Ellipse in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election, which he believed were rigged.
Schaffer wore a tactical vest and carried bear spray, a dangerous weapon and chemical irritant used to ward off bears.
When the rally ended, Schaffer joined a large crowd marching from Ellipse to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress, chaired by Vice President Michael Pence, met to certify the results of the Electoral College vote.
Shortly after 2:00 p.m., members of the mob violently stormed the Capitol building, disrupting the joint session and causing members of Congress and the vice president to be removed from the chambers of the House and Senate.
In his apology, Schaffer admitted that after arriving on the Capitol grounds, he went through barriers meant to restrict public access and a series of locked doors on the west side of the Capitol. At about 2:40 p.m., Schaffer positioned himself in front of a crowd that smashed a row of doors guarded by four U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers wearing riot gear.
Schaffer admitted that he was among the first people to walk through the destroyed doors and enter the Capitol building, forcing the officers to retreat.
Schaffer and others advanced toward five or six USCP officers who retreated, while members of the mob swelled inside the Capitol and crushed the officers.
The officers eventually used a chemical irritant to disperse the mob.
Schaffer was among the people sprayed in the face, after which he came out holding his own bear spray in his hands.
As part of the deal, Schaffer agreed to cooperate with investigators and potentially testify in related criminal cases, according to CNN.
In exchange for Schaffer’s help, the Justice Department could later urge the judge to show clemency during his sentencing.
Also, as part of the deal, the Justice Department offered to fund Schaffer for the witness protection program.
The 55-year-old musician was the first defendant in a Capitol riot to reach a deal.
The Indiana branch of the Oath Keepers distanced itself from Schaffer after his arrest, claiming he was not a member of the local group.
But the national organization, which sold lifetime subscriptions for $1,200, had not commented on his alleged relationship with the group.
At a November 2020 Donald Trump rally in Washington, D.C., Schaffer was filmed walking behind a Florida couple, Kelly Meggs and Connie Meggs, who were accused of being among the 10 members of the Oath Keepers who played a leading role in the attack on the Capitol.
In May 2023, Kelly Meggs was convicted of subversive conspiracy for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and sentenced to spend 12 years in prison.
After initial reports that Schaffer was involved in the riots, his ICED EARTH teammates distanced themselves from his actions.
Vocalist Stu Block and bassist Luke Appleton later posted separate statements on social media announcing their resignations.
BLIND GUARDIAN frontman Hansi Kürsch also left DEMONS and WIZARDS, his long-running project with Schaffer.
The allegations apparently also affected Schaffer’s relationship with his longtime record label Century Media, which had released albums by both ICED EARTH and DEMONS and WIZARDS.
As of mid-January 2021, Century Media’s artist roster page did not mention any bands.