Jan. 6 lawsuits: Schaffer could be part of Trump case

File photo Jon Schaffer is facing six federal crimes for his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

Evidence collected against a former Columbus resident who pleaded guilty to storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, could end up being used in a civil lawsuit seeking to hold former President Donald Trump and others financially liable for injuries sustained by police officers during the attack.

Attorneys representing the District of Columbia in a civil lawsuit in federal court against former Columbus resident and heavy metal musician Jon Schaffer and other far-right extremists said in recent court filings that they have “begun discussing how to best coordinate discovery” with attorneys in a separate lawsuit against Trump and several other individuals over the Jan. 6 attack.

The lawsuit against Schaffer, filed Dec. 14, 2021, seeks to hold him and 36 others civilly liable for, among other things, the medical expenses of D.C. police officers who were injured when defending the U.S. Capitol from a violent mob of pro-Trump rioters who attempted to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election, according to an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The other lawsuit, filed Aug. 26, 2021, in the same court by eight Capitol police officers, alleges that Trump “employed, planned for and encouraged the use of force, intimidation and threats to try to stop the Congressional count of electoral votes on Jan. 6,” according to a copy of an amended complaint.

The lawsuit further alleges that members of the extremist groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — which Schaffer has acknowledged being a founding member of — responded to Trump’s false claims of election fraud and efforts to incite outrage among his supports and “planned and coordinated among themselves to come to Washington, D.C., and violently attack the United States Capitol and the law enforcement officers defending it.”

“While the attack was ongoing, Trump and his co-conspirators contacted members of Congress, not to offer support or protection, but to pressure them to delay further and to stop the congressional count,” the complaint states. “…Trump later confirmed that he and the attackers shared the same goal, stating ‘Personally, what I wanted is what they wanted.’”

So far, court filings indicate that the discussions between the attorneys in both lawsuits have included, among other things, “coordinating depositions” and “sharing documents produced in each case,” raising the possibility that evidence collected against Schaffer, including a potential deposition, could be provided to attorneys in the lawsuit filed against Trump as part of the discovery process.

Last week, attorneys representing the District of Columbia said in a court filing that they anticipate seeking document discovery, depositions and third-party and expert discovery, as the lawsuit proceeds in federal court. In addition, the attorneys said they anticipate “seeking discovery concerning, among other things, the attack and the planning of an preparations for that attack, as well as its aftermath.”

Discovery is the formal process in which the parties of a lawsuit exchange information about witnesses and evidence that they plan to present at trial.

One of the most common methods of discovery involve depositions, which are out-of-court statements given under oath by individuals who are involved in a case. Depositions also can be used to obtain the testimony of witnesses who can’t appear during the trial.

Several of the defendants in the lawsuit against Schaffer also are defendants in the lawsuit that names Trump as a defendant. The two lawsuits are considered to be related because they involve common issues of fact and arise from the same event, according to court records.

While Schaffer is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit involving Trump, he has been accused of conspiring with defendants named in both lawsuits, according to court records.

If evidence involving Schaffer ends up being used in the other lawsuit, it wouldn’t be the first time the Schaffer has played a role in legal proceedings related to the Jan. 6 attack, beyond the criminal case against him.

Schaffer’s attorney in a criminal case against him has stated in court filings that the Oath Keeper’s cooperation with federal authorities has involved “the largest conspiracy arising out of the (Jan. 6 insurrection) that has been indicted to date.”

Last October, Schaffer’s attorneys included language in a court filing about Schaffer allegedly cooperating with federal authorities investigating Thomas Caldwell, an Oath Keeper who was found guilty by a jury in November on charges of seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack.

Caldwell is named as a defendant in the lawsuit involving Trump.

For his part, Schaffer, who formerly was a musician in the heavy metal band Ice Earth, 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.”

Both civil lawsuits, as well as the criminal case against Schaffer, were pending in federal court as of Friday morning. In a sidenote in one of the lawsuits, court documents state Schaffer is currently listing himself as a resident of Indiana.