Alleged Oath Keeper charged in Capitol riot called government “tyrannical” and urged people to fight, prosecutors say

Another alleged member of the Oath Keepers has been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. Though 61-year-old James Breheny was not charged with coordinating with other members of the group, prosecutors say he invited the Oath Keepers’ leader to a planning meeting prior to the attack.

Authorities said Breheny served as a county coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Oath Keepers, which prosecutors defined as a large but loosely organized collection of individuals, some of whom believe that the federal government is trying to strip American citizens of their rights. Some members of the group are associated with militias, and prosecutors say the group focuses on recruiting current and former military and law enforcement.

Breheny faces three charges for crimes related to the Capitol breach, but prosecutors also alleged that in the days and weeks before the riot, Breheny coordinated with the leader of the Oath Keepers. The government does not mention the alleged leader by name in this charging document, but authorities have previously identified him as Stewart Rhodes, who has not been charged in connection with the riot.

Breheny is the 14th alleged Oath Keeper to be charged in the Capitol riot. A group of 12 other Oath Keepers have been charged together in a criminal conspiracy case, and another agreed to cooperate with prosecutors after he entered a guilty plea last month. 

Prosecutors suggested Breheny’s coordination began weeks before the Capitol riot. In December, prosecutors said, Breheny invited the leader of the Oath Keepers to a meeting of “multiple patriot groups” from Mid-Atlantic states that was set to take place on January 3 in Pennsylvania. A message describing the purpose of that meeting allegedly said, “This will be the day we get our comms on point with multiple other patriot groups, share rally points etc. This one is important and I believe this is our last chance to organize before the show. This meeting will be for leaders only.”

When inviting the Oath Keepers leader to the meeting, Breheny allegedly told him, “No cell phones. Need to be Faraday bag prior to site,” referring to security containers typically used to block remote hacking or tracking of electronic devices.

On the morning of January 6, Breheny was allegedly added to an encrypted Signal group chat titled “DC Op: Jan 6 21.” The government said the leader of the Oath Keepers added Breheny to the group, and wrote he would be “coming in with a team from NJ” and had contacts with “several militia leaders coming in.” The government said that other Oath Keepers indicted together in the 12-person criminal conspiracy case also participated in this chat.

In an interview with law enforcement officers in January, Breheny admitted that he had entered the Capitol during the siege, but told authorities he had been pushed inside the U.S. Capitol by a surge of people entering the building, and did not know he wasn’t allowed inside because officers hadn’t told him to stop. 

In text messages regarding the events of January 6, however, prosecutors said Breheny bragged about entering the Capitol, writing, “We breached the door Baby,” “Made it in Brother,” and “I breached the Capital door!”

Breheny was photographed wearing what appeared to be an earpiece for a radio during the attack, and video evidence showed that he had entered willingly while emergency alarms were sounding, the government said. 

“It is unreasonable that any individual entering the building could believe that he had a lawful right to enter,” the government wrote.

Prosecutors said that late January 6, after the attack, Breheny posted about his belief that the government had become “tyrannical,” and wrote that people needed to “stand up and fight.” He posted, “The People’s Duty is to replace that Government with one they agree with. I’m all ears. What’s our options???” 

“We weren’t burning down the city. We wanted access to the Capital to watch the vote and have our voices heard. They put barricades up. It’s our house not theirs,” Breheny allegedly added. “They are only our representatives minor guards or kings or queens so we have a right to access to the building.”

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