RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Eleven Virginians face federal charges for their alleged roles in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, including a former FBI section chief who federal prosecutors called “a key figure” in the attack and two off-duty police officers who were subsequently fired.

While the majority have been accused of participating in the riot, a federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging 66-year-old Thomas Edward Caldwell with helping to orchestrate one, according to court documents.

Caldwell, a Navy veteran who worked for the FBI from 2009 to 2010, has been in the Central Virginia Regional Correctional Facility in Orange, Va., since he was arrested at his home on Jan. 19, his attorney wrote in a court filing. Federal prosecutors revealed in a Feb. 11 filing that a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted Caldwell and two others on several charges, including conspiracy.

“Like any coach on the sideline, Caldwell was just as responsible as his players on the field for achieving what he viewed as victory that day,” prosecutors wrote in a motion Thursday seeking to keep Caldwell in custody until his trial.

A violent mob breached the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were debating and counting Electoral College votes certifying President Joe Biden’s victory, forcing members of Congress to find a secure location or shelter in place. Legislators were asked to wear gas masks and take their congressional pins off so they couldn’t be recognized by the rioters, some who were yelling threats while searching for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and then-Vice President Mike Pence.

Five people, a Capitol Police officer and four others involved in the assault, were killed and nearly 150 law enforcement officers were injured in the siege. More than 200 people have been charged with federal crimes, a database from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University shows. 

“Just to frame things, the enormity of this investigation is going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort,” acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin for the District of Columbia said during a Jan. 12 press conference. Sherwin added that despite opening subject files on 170 potential suspects less than a week after the attack, the number would “geometrically increase” over time.

The majority of Virginians who federal authorities claim took part in the riot face felony charges, but some have only been cited for misdemeanors. Charges range from conspiracy to defraud the United States to destruction of government property and trespassing.

House impeachment managers rested their case against former President Donald Trump on Feb. 11, claiming his remarks to supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally and false claims of a stolen election before the Capitol assault incited the violence on Jan. 6.

As Trump’s lawyers argue those statements are protected by free speech during his second impeachment trial, the number of people charged in the aftermath of the failed insurrection continues to grow.

Thomas Caldwell 

Image alleging to be Thomas Caldwell on Jan. 6. (photo from federal prosecutors’ motion to keep Caldwell in custody)

Unsealed court documents claim Thomas Caldwell, 66, from Berryville, Va., conspired with two Ohio residents as early as Nov. 3, 2020, to impede the certification proceeding. Caldwell is alleged to be a leader of the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, a claim he has denied.

Federal prosecutors allege Caldwell worked with other members and other militia groups to organize an attack.

According to the charging document, Caldwell replied to a Facebook comment on Dec. 31 writing, “It begins for real Jan 5 and 6 on Washington D.C. when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some crud on capitol hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is set to boil.”

Prosecutors claim Caldwell arranged logistical details, relayed messages about plans, researched weapons and even suggested hotels in the area to those making the trip to Washington, D.C.

In a motion filed Feb. 11 to prevent Caldwell from being released before trial, federal prosecutors wrote Caldwell reached out to a member of the militia group the Three Percenters about the possibility of having a boat with the capability of hold “heavy weapons” and cross the Potomac River.

“Can’t believe I just thought of this: how many people either in the militia or not (who are still supportive of our efforts to save the Republic) have a boat on a trailer that could handle a Potomac crossing? If we had someone standing by at a dock ramp (one near the Pentagon for sure) we could have our Quick Response Team with the heavy weapons standing by, quickly load them and ferry them across the river to our waiting arms,” Caldwell allegedly wrote in a text message on Jan. 3. “I’m not talking about a bass boat. Anyone who would be interested in supporting the team this way? I will buy the fuel.”

The motion alleged Caldwell’s involvement “was extreme and serious,” also claiming he texted someone who was saved as “Oath” on his phone on Nov. 26, 2020, about having three, four-man teams “with a 2 man quick reaction force and 2 drivers/exractors [sic] to double as snipers/stallers” for a “Make American Great Again” march scheduled for Dec. 12, 2020.

“Far from an ancillary player who became swept up in the moment, Caldwell was a key figure who put into motion the violence that overwhelmed the Capitol,” federal prosecutors wrote in the Feb. 11 filing. “And, had all of Caldwell’s plans come to life, he appeared ready and willing to wreak even more havoc.”

Caldwell’s attorney, Thomas Plofchan, asserts that despite allegations that his client entered the Capitol, no evidence or photographs have been presented showing him inside. 

“It is noteworthy that despite reports of over 100,000 photo and video recordings of the incidents on January 6, 2021, the Government has not identified any photo or video that shows Caldwell in the U.S. Capitol Building, on the grounds after overcoming any barrier or other evidence of restriction, in the vicinity of any damaged property, or in any chamber of Congress.” 

In his effort to get Caldwell released until his trial, Plofchan wrote in his own motion that Caldwell is a disabled Navy veteran with serious physical and health concerns. Plofchan also disclosed Caldwell has undergone several background checks as he has held a top-secret security clearance since 1979. Caldwell served as a FBI section chief from 2009-2010 and also operated a consulting firm that had U.S. government agencies as clients, according to the motion. 

Federal prosecutors allege Caldwell did breach perimeters and “stormed to a Capitol balcony,” and court documents claim he sent Facebook messages during the attack, writing, “We are surging forward. Doors breached” at 2:48 p.m. and “Inside” at 3:05 p.m. 

“It is of no matter that Caldwell was not physically part of the “stack” of Oath Keepers that stormed the Capitol January 6,” prosecutors wrote in their motion to keep Caldwell in custody. “Like any coach on the sideline, Caldwell was just as responsible as his players on the field for achieving what he viewed as victory that day.”

Authorities allege Caldwell took efforts to hide his involvement, specifically citing deleted messages he sent to Donovan Crowl, one of co-conspirators named in the FBI affidavit.  

“CALDWELL deleted or ‘unsent’ Facebook messages containing evidence. For example, on January 8, 2021, in response to a request from CROWL for a video, CALDWELL sent the video, and when CROWL thanked him and said, ‘Thank you Sir. Love the hell outta you Tom.’ CALDWELL responded, ‘You too, my dear friend! We stormed the gates of corruption together (although on opposite sides of the building) so between that and our first meeting and getting to know you since I can say we will always be brothers!’ Subsequently, CALDWELL unsent the message containing the video,” court documents allege.

Prosecutors said taking those steps reveal that Caldwell knew his involvement was criminal and despite any health concerns, he should not be released.

“After this attack, Caldwell actively concealed evidence of his and others’ involvement in such activity. Caldwell’s statements and actions leading up to, on the day of, and after January 6, 2021, all demonstrate that there are no conditions of release that would reasonably assure the safety of the community or Caldwell’s compliance with Court orders,” they wrote in the Feb. 11 court filing.

Charged with:

Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson 

Photo of Jacob Fracker (left) and Thomas Robertson (right), two former police officers in Rocky Mount, Va., in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 (photo included in federal complaint)

Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, two former officers with the Rocky Mount Police Department, were off duty when they took a photo in front of the John Stark statue in the Capitol, an FBI affidavit states.

“In social media posts, Defendant Robertson is quoted as saying, ‘CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.’ He also stated that he was ‘proud’ of the photo in an Instagram Post that was shared to Facebook, because he was ‘willing to put skin in the game,’” a criminal complaint alleges.

The court document also claims that Robertson admitted to Newsweek that they sent the photo to their colleagues at the Rocky Mount Police Department and asserted that he didn’t break any laws and actually had been escorted inside the building by the Capitol Police. 

“Robertson made these claims notwithstanding his previous posts that he had ‘attacked the government’ and ‘took the f**** Capitol.’ Moreover, at that date and time, the United States Capitol was on lockdown and the defendants’ presence inside was without lawful authority,” the affidavit continued. 

After they were arrested and released, Robertson and Fracker were both fired by the police department

Charged with:

Jonathan Gennaro Mellis

Photo allegedly showing Johnathan Gennaro Mellis at Capitol riot on Jan. 6 (image included in federal complaint)

Johnathan Gennaro Mellis was arrested on the morning of Feb. 16 at his Williamsburg home on charges related to the U.S. Capitol riot, FBI spokeswoman Christina Pullen confirmed to 8News.

According to unsealed court documents, two people who know Mellis shared screenshots from his personal Facebook page, which is under the name “Jon Gennaro,” allegedly showing Mellis at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Law enforcement reviewed Mellis’ Facebook page and found photos of him on the National Mall approaching the Capitol, on Capitol grounds and inside an entryway of the building, an affidavit reads.

“The photos on MELLIS’ Facebook page included captions stating, among other things, ‘Storming the Castle. The world heard US!!! Finally not ignored.’; ‘We proudly take responsibility for storming the castle.’; and ‘We are fighting for election integrity. They heard us.’ During interviews with your affiant, the tipsters both stated that MELLIS, who they both knew as ‘Jon’, posted on his Facebook page with increasing frequency about the politics and media coverage surrounding the 2020 U.S. Presidential election,” the document states.

Portions of body-worn camera footage allegedly shows Mellis and others “using sticks and other items as weapons to assault various police officers protecting the U.S. Capitol,” court documents state.

Federal Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask ordered Mellis to remain in custody until his virtual detention hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.

Robert Keith Packer

Mugshot of Robert Keith Packer on the left (Western Regional Tidewater Jail) and image showing man believed to be Packer in “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt outside Capitol (photo included in federal complaint)

Media outlets identified Robert Keith Packer, a Newport News man with a full gray beard who was seen in footage wearing a sweatshirt with the words, “CAMP AUSCHWITZ” outside and inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to unsealed court documents. The sweatshirt also had a skull on it with the text “WORK BRINGS FREEDOM” underneath. 

Nazis killed more than 1 million people at Auschwitz, a notorious concentration camp in Germany, in a five-year span during World War II. The death camp’s gate read, “Arbeit mact frei,” which translates in English to “work makes freedom,” the affidavit states

Federal authorities confirmed Packer’s identification by comparing photos of him on Jan. 6 to his driver’s license picture and through a cooperating witness who claimed they recognized him as a regular at a store near Newport News.

Alleged photo of Packer at Newport News business on Dec. 11, 2020. (photo provided in federal complaint)

The witness even provided a photo from Dec. 11, 2020 of Packer wearing the same sweatshirt in the store. 

Charged with:

Dennis Sidorski  

DMV photo of Dennis Sidorski (left), photo alleged to be Sidorski in “American Supremacist” sweatshirt (middle) and photo of Sidorski from Adesa video. (photos included in federal complaint)

A “concerned citizen” reported the potential identity of one rioter to federal authorities on Jan. 7, telling an FBI special agent over the phone the next day that they saw a screenshot on Twitter showing a man inside the Capitol building wearing a black sweatshirt with “American Supremacist” on the front.

The screenshot, allegedly taken from video footage during the siege, was in a tweet from the Twitter handle @vagate that included a retweet from the Twitter handle @4TheCulture_ with the words, “The mans name in the ‘American Supremacist’ is Dennis Sidorski and he is a manager of Adesa D.C. @shaunking @shaunking @shaunking EXPOSE HIM.” 

According to the court filing, the witness located the original source of the Twitter video and informed the FBI agent where to find it online. While further researching Sidorski, the witness found an ADESA D.C. video identifying Sidorski as its operations manager.

“Witness 1 took a screenshot of the man in the video and compared it to the screenshot of the man inside the United States Capitol Building and believes they are the same person,” the statement of facts stated. “It was at this point Witness 1 reported this information to FBI NTOC.” 

The FBI agent viewed both videos, writing in the court filing that the individual in the ADESA video identified as Sidorski “bears strong similarities to the likeness and physical characteristics of the man” wearing the “American Supremacist” sweatshirt inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Federal authorities ran a search of Sidorski by his name and date of birth through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and obtained his DMV photograph, adding in the filing that it appeared “consistent with the man in the screenshots.” 

An individual who claimed they worked with Sidorski at Adesa “from sometime in 2016 until April 2020” also provided a tip to authorities, informing the FBI they received the same video showing a man inside the Capitol with the “American Supremacist” sweatshirt. 

“Upon initially viewing the video, Witness 2 said they did not recognize SIDORSKI due to the picture quality having an ‘orangish’ look to it,” the court filing stated. “However, after being told by the person that texted them the video that SIDORSKI was in the video, Witness 2 confirmed that the video did contain SIDORSKI and then relayed this information to law enforcement in the tip.” 

Another witness who said they worked for Sidorski at Adesa 10 years ago told the FBI on Jan. 13 they reached out to Sidorski after wondering if he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. After not receiving a text back, the witness messaged a family member who allegedly still maintained contact with Sidorski. 

“In return Witness 3 received two videos from their family member supposedly taken by SIDORSKI inside the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021,” the filing alleges. 

The court filing claims that the witness had not seen any footage or still photographs allegedly of Sidorski at the Capitol before the Jan. 13 interview. The FBI agent instructed the witness to view the video of the Capitol siege and asked if anyone resembled the person they knew as Sidorski. 

“Witness 3 watched the video and informed your affiant that DENNIS SIDORSKI is in the video and is wearing the ‘American Supremacist’ sweatshirt,” the complaint added.

Charged with:

Melody Steele-Smith

Melody Steele-Smith (Western Regional Tidewater Jail)

Law enforcement received a tip online on Jan. 8 stating that Melody Steele-Smith, of Gloucester, posted photos from inside the Capitol on her personal Facebook page. Authorities identified Steele-Smith by reviewing surveillance footage and comparing her Facebook photos to her driver’s license.

According to an FBI affidavit, Steele-Smith posted photos and videos outside the Capitol and one claiming to be inside the office of House Speaker Pelosi. Those images, deleted from Steele-Smith’s account, were added to court documents.

Photos authorities claim were taken from Melody Steel-Smith’s Facebook page on Jan. 6. (photos included in federal complaint)

“Image 2 depicts a conversation captured on STEELE-SMITH’s Facebook page in which STEELE-SMITH stated, ‘I was there. I’m trying to figure out how I could be there all day and miss all this violence and destruction I’m seeing on tv. I think photos for the news were staged. I hope they come for me my videos will show the peace and the lies on the news. We are all fools for believing the government and the news on either side,'” the affidavit stated.

On Feb. 12, Steele-Smith plead not guilty to all counts against her.

Charged with:

Edward Hemenway

Edward Hemenway’s DMV photo (left) and an edited photo of Hemenway and Robert Bauer inside the Capitol building (the federal complaint included both photos. The second showed both men with their middle fingers out, which 8News edited out of the image before publishing)

Telling federal authorities he entered the U.S. Capitol out of “curiosity” and “stupidity,” Edward Hemenway said he knew Congress was certifying the Electoral College vote but did not know the body was in session on Jan. 6.

“He [Hemenway] also knew that Vice President Pence was going to announce the Electoral College vote,” court documents signed by an FBI special agent said. “HEMENWAY said that he knows being inside the U.S. Capitol under those circumstances was wrong.”

On Jan. 7, a tip came into the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center claiming that Robert Bauer, Hemenway’s cousin, posted photos inside the Capitol after attending the “Stop the Steal” rally. Bauer told FBI agents on Jan. 8 that he and his wife traveled from Kentucky to Winchester, Va., to stay with Hemenway from Jan. 1 to Jan. 5 ahead of the rally.

Hemenway told federal authorities that he and Bauer did enter the Capitol after the rally.

“According to HEMENWAY, during the rally President Trump said ‘something about taking Pennsylvania Avenue,‘ so HEMENWAY and BAUER walked down Pennsylvania Avenue
to the U.S. Capitol,” an affidavit states.

Photos taken from Bauer’s phone show both men behind a group of rioters inside the Capitol, according to court documents. The FBI identified Hemenway using his driver’s license photograph “which bears a strong resemblance” to the man in the photo taken inside the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Hemenway pleaded not guilty to the charges against him on Friday, Feb. 12.

Charged with:

Douglas Sweet and Cindy Fitchett 

Douglas Sweet and Cindy Fitchett, two Mathews County, Va., residents, are among several people who have been charged with refusing to leave the Capitol after entering the building on Jan. 6.

Cindy Fitchett (Western Tidewater Regional Jail)

“In a loud and clear voice, Capitol Police Officers ordered the crowd to leave the building. The crowd did not comply, and instead responded by shouting and cursing at the Capitol Police Officers,” U.S. Capitol Police officer Joseph Bruno wrote in an affidavit. “I observed that the crowd, which at the time was located on the Upper Level of the United States Capitol Visitors Center near the door to the House Atrium, included the six individuals who were later identified to be Cindy Fitchett, Michael Curzio, Douglas Sweet, Terry Brown, Bradley Rukstales, and Thomas Gallgher.”

Bruno claimed that they “willfully refused the order to leave” and all six were arrested.

Charged with:

Jacob Hiles

Screenshot of video posted to Facebook account of an individual identified by a witness as Hiles. Court documents allege the video was taken around the Capitol on Jan. 6 (photo included in federal complaint)

Jacob Hiles, a Virginia Beach fishing charter captain, is accused of violating federal law for entering the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, after being linked to a Facebook account with the name “Jake Hiles” that had several photos from the insurrection.

A witness who has known Hiles for over five years and “periodically interacts” with him identified Hiles as the person in the Facebook photos, according to court documents.

“On January 6, 2021, a post to the Facebook account accompanied by timestamp 1:31 PM stated, ‘After being tear gassed for an hour, we entered the capitol, thousands of us. The fbi shot and killed a woman in front of us. We followed the trail of her blood out of the building,'” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.

Accused of:

Update: This article was adjusted after Jonathan Gennaro Mellis was arrested Feb. 16 and identified as a Virginia resident.