Phoenix veteran gets 3 years in prison for role in Jan. 6 attack

Edward Vallejo was convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack at...
Edward Vallejo was convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.(Arizona's Family)
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 2:44 PM MST
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WASHINGTON (AP/3TV/CBS 5) — A Phoenix veteran avoided the maximum punishment on Thursday for his role in a violent plot to stop the transfer of power from President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election on Jan. 6, 2021. Edward Vallejo was sentenced to three years behind bars followed by one year of home confinement. Federal prosecutors had wanted him to spend 17 years in prison.

Vallejo oversaw a “Quick Reaction Force” at a Virginia hotel that was prepared to deploy an arsenal of weapons into Washington if needed, authorities say. He was convicted in January of seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge the Justice Department has brought in the Jan. 6 attack. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta told Vallejo that he can’t conspire to “undo” the results of an election just because he and his cohorts believed the process failed them.

“It can’t be that dozens of judges got it wrong,” he said, referring to the judges who rejected legal challenges after the 2020 election brought by Trump and his Republican allies. “If you believe in the system, if you believe in democracy, you take the good with the bad.”

Vallejo told the judge his life has been destroyed and he regrets ever associating himself with Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group. “I assure you that I’m not a traitor or a terrorist,” he said, fighting back tears. “I’ve learned my lesson and keeping my big mouth shut.”

Justice Department prosecutor Louis Manzo said Vallejo, as a “Quick Reaction Force” leader, managed one of the most important components of the Oath Keepers’ conspiracy: the cache of firearms stashed at the Virginia hotel. The weapons were never deployed.

On a podcast recorded early Jan. 6, Vallejo warned of a “guerrilla war” if Congress went ahead with the certification of Biden’s electoral victory. A day after the riot, Vallejo traveled into Washington to “conduct surveillance” and “probe the defense line” of police and National Guard troopers protecting the Capitol, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorney Matthew Peed said Vallejo was a relatively minor figure in the case. Vallejo brought a stockpile of food with him to Washington because he thought there would be an “ongoing protest,” not a war, the defense lawyer said.

“He thought there was going to be a movement,” Peed said.

Roberto Minuta, another member of the Oath Keepers who was part of a security detail for former President Donald Trump‘s longtime adviser Roger Stone before storming the Capitol, was sentenced earlier on Thursday to more than four years in prison. Minuta, who was seen on video guarding Stone hours before the riot, was among six Oath Keeper members convicted by jurors of seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a violent plot to stop the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election.

Two other Oath Keepers, Rhodes, were sentenced last week after being convicted of the rarely used charge. Rhodes was ordered to serve 18 years behind bars — the longest sentence that has been handed down so far in hundreds of Capitol riot cases. Kelly Meggs, who led the group’s Florida chapter, was sentenced to 12 years.

Mehta agreed with the Justice Department that Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers’ actions could be punished as “terrorism,” increasing the recommended sentence under federal guidelines. But the judge has consistently issued sentences shorter than those prosecutors have sought for Oath Keeper members.

The Justice Department had sought 17 years in prison for both Minuta and Vallejo.

Lawyers for the Oath Keepers say there was never any plot to storm the Capitol or stop the transfer of power. Minuta’s attorney, William Shipley, said his client came to Washington to serve in the Oath Keepers’ personal security detail for Stone and “had no intention or plan to engage in any other activity.”

Two more Oath Keeper sentencings are scheduled for Friday.

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