Schaffer asks court to dismiss Capitol attack lawsuit

An attorney representing a local man who has pleaded guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against him by the District of Columbia over his role in the attack.

In a motion filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., an attorney representing former Columbus resident and heavy metal musician Jon Schaffer asked to join a series of motions to dismiss the lawsuit and some responses from other defendants, stating that the arguments made in those filings “similarly apply” to Schaffer.

The responses and other motions were filed last year by fellow members of the far-right Oath Keepers, as well as members of other far-right groups such as the Proud Boys, including a Georgia man who has pleaded guilty to charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding related to the attack.

As of Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, who is presiding over the case, had not ruled on the merits of Schaffer’s request or the motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 14, 2021, by attorneys representing the office of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, alleges that Schaffer and dozens of other defendants conspired to participate in the violent effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and injure former Vice President Mike Pence, according to court filings.

The District of Columbia further alleges that Schaffer and his co-defendants are liable for the damages and costs of dispatching hundreds of D.C. police officers to defend the U.S. Capitol during the attack.

The damages and costs include transportation, coordination and overtime expenses, as well as costs associated with emergency and other medical treatment for injured officers and paid leave for officers who could not work due to their injuries, according to an amended complaint filed April 1, 2022.

Schaffer, who formerly was a musician in the heavy metal band Iced Earth and member of the Oath Keepers, pleaded guilty in April 2021 to, among other things, breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, armed with bear repellent and obstructing an official proceeding.

Schaffer was one of the first six insurrectionists to push through the damaged doors of the Capitol and was photographed inside wearing a hat that said, “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member,” with bear spray in his hand, according to the lawsuit.

As part of his guilty plea in his criminal case, Schaffer acknowledged that he is “a founding, lifetime member of the Oath Keepers” and believes that “the federal government has been ‘co-opted’ by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”

The Oath Keepers is a militia group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders.

The five motions to dismiss that Schaffer seeks to join essentially argue that the District of Columbia does not have standing to bring civil action against the defendants because the civil rights statutes cited in the District’s lawsuit limit “standing to injured federal officials or officers, not a governmental entity.”

“The statutes upon which the District relies provide standing for individuals to bring suits in their own names, but do not provide standing for the District as a governmental entity to bring suit on the individuals’ behalf,” one of the motions states.

One of the motions was filed by in June 2022 by an attorney representing Brian Ulrich, a member of the Georgia chapter of the Oath Keepers who had pleaded guilty several weeks earlier to seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the Jan. 6 attack, according to court records.

In his guilty plea, Ulrich admitted that he and others conspired to equip themselves with “a variety of weapons,” purchased a medical tourniquet, donned combat and tactical gear and weaved their way through restricted areas of the U.S. Capitol in a military “stack” formation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

One of the responses to the District’s lawsuit that Schaffer seeks to join was filed by attorneys for Laura Steele, an Oath Keeper and former North Carolina police officer who is currently facing charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, among other charges.

Steele’s filing claims that she “is is not implicated in any such pre-planning or unlawful conspiracy” related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and instead points the finger at former President Donald Trump, whose lies about his loss in the 2020 presidential election sparked the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The effort to include even Ms. Steele in this ‘conspiracy’ ignores what the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol has shown, which is that persons around Donald Trump planned, encouraged and/or failed to prevent the events of Jan. 6,” Steele’s filing states. “…The District has cast too wide a net, effectively casting any person in the Capitol that terrible day as part of an unlawful conspiracy.”

Schaffer’s motion is the latest turn of events in a 15-month saga that has included several twists and turns as the civil case continues to work its way through federal court.

At one point, attorneys for the District were struggling to find Schaffer to notify him of the lawsuit, making “at least 25 separate attempts to serve Schaffer at seven different addresses across three different states” — including three residences in the Columbus area.

By June 2022, the District of Columbia believed that Schaffer was “hiding from process servers in a mobile home in Auburndale, Florida,” according to court filings. “Since locating that address, the district has attempted service there at least five times, yet Schaffer refuses to answer the door — thereby preventing effective service absent further relief from the court.”

On Jan. 30, Mehta, the judge presiding over the case, granted a request to authorize serving Schaffer by placing a copy of a summons and amended complaint at the base of the front door of the Florida mobile home and delivering a copy of the court’s order granting alternative service to Schaffer’s attorney in his criminal matters.

About a week and a half later, the District of Columbia told the court that the the summons and complaint had been placed by the front door of the mobile home on Feb. 6, according to court records.

Schaffer “was not at the residence during that time but had another individual go by his house while he was away to check on his mail,” Schaffer’s attorney would later state in court filings.

On Feb. 27, Schaffer’s attorney requested an additional two weeks to file a response to the District of Columbia’s complaint “given the voluminous number of allegations,” including “117 pages and 490 separate allegations,” court records state.

The filing also states that Schaffer “has proposed a potential resolution” to the District of Columbia and that “additional time is needed for (the) plaintiff to evaluate and consider the proposed resolution.” Mehta granted the request.

It is currently unclear what the proposed resolution includes or if the District of Columbia was ever considering it, as Schaffer’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit 12 days later.

The case was still pending in federal court as of Friday.