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Feds: Dunnellon man a leader in conspiracy by Oath Keepers for Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol

This image from a federal criminal complaint shows some members of the Oath Keepers after they entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. FBI officials added labels indentifying the Oath Keepers, who were wearing tactical gear.
This image from a federal criminal complaint shows some members of the Oath Keepers after they entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. FBI officials added labels indentifying the Oath Keepers, who were wearing tactical gear.

A Dunnellon man -- the self-described leader of the Oath Keepers in Florida -- has been charged along with his wife and seven others with conspiracy for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

[caption id="attachment_174605" align="alignleft" width="320"]

Kelly Meggs is shown in this photo from the Marion County Jail..[/caption]

Fifty-two-year-old Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, who manages a Lake City car dealership, and his 59-year-old wife, Connie, were arrested Wednesday afternoon. They remained in the Marion County Jail Friday night, according to jail records.

A superseding federal indictment filed Friday in Washington, D.C., charges the nine with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States by impeding Congress' certification of the Electoral College vote.

They also face several other charges related to breaching the Capitol.

The FBI describes an operation planned in advance by members of the Oath Keepers, an anti-government extremist group. The documents detail careful coordination, discussion of an armed quick reaction force on standby, and the use of a military formation as they entered the building in tactical gear.

The alleged conspiracy involved coordination with Oath Keepers from other regions, training in paramilitary combat, protective gear, and communication by hand signals and the Zello walkie-talkie app.

[caption id="attachment_174606" align="alignleft" width="400"]

FBI officials say members of the Oath Keepers used a stack or line formation while climbing the steps to the Capitol on Jan. 6. In this image from a criminal complaint, the red oval encircling the Oath Keepers was added by the FBI.[/caption]

They saw themselves as responding to then-President Donald Trump's call to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president-elect.

On Dec. 22, the indictment says, Kelly Meggs messaged someone on Facebook saying: "Trump said It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! It's gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that's what he's saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!! Sir Yes Sir!!! Gentlemen we are heading to DC pack your sh**!!"

On Dec. 25, he sent a message saying he had been named the "State lead of Florida." He said they would have "at least 50-100" Oath Keepers there.

The indictment describes the Oath Keepers as a "large and loosely organized collection of individuals," including militia members, that focuses on recruiting "current and former military, law enforcement, and first-responder personnel."

Some members believe the conspiracy theory "that the federal government has been coopted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights," according to the indictment.

Kelly Meggs' lawyer, David A. Wilson, filed a motion for pretrial release on Friday.

Wilson anticipates that prosecutors will seek to keep Meggs in jail "as a danger to the community." The lawyer argues against that, saying he has lived at least 12 years in Dunnellon, where he has a home and two minor grandchildren who depend on him.

He also has two adult children in Marion County, Wilson wrote, and at least 11 years with the dealership. Wilson said Meggs has no criminal convictions and no history of substance abuse, though he does use cannabis to help him sleep.

Detention hearings are set for Kelly and Connie Meggs in Ocala Monday morning.

Also charged are:
- Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Florida;
- Laura Steele, 52, of Thomasville, North Carolina;
- Thomas Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Virginia;
- Donovan Crowl, 50, of Champaign County, Ohio;
- Jessica Watkins, also of Champaign County, Ohio;
- Sandra Ruth Parker, 62, of Morrow, Ohio; and
- Bennie Alvin Parker, 70, also of Morrow, Ohio,

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.