Ex-Army and Navy reservist charged in Capitol insurrection ordered to remain in jail without bail
By ANASTASIA DAWSON | Tampa Bay Times | Published: February 23, 2021
TAMPA, Fla. (Tribune Content Agency) — Graydon Young, an Army and Navy reserve veteran from Sarasota County, stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 with thousands of others because he was working toward a “righteous cause,” his attorney said in federal court Monday.
Young, a father, husband and a small business owner, only later realized “he had been duped by an organization he didn’t fully understand,” Tampa defense attorney Robert Foley argued in a federal probable cause hearing in Tampa. Young was arrested on Feb. 15, and is among nine alleged co-conspirators associated with the far-right, anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers. All nine face charges for conspiring to obstruct the U.S. Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results by storming the capitol building on Jan. 6.
“His philosophical bent revolves around protecting the U.S. Constitution,” Foley said. “He thought he was participating in something important, only to find out later on that this was something far more nefarious.”
Young’s actions that day were simply “inconceivable,” federal Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson ruled. Young, 54, of Englewood, will be held in Pinellas County jail without bail until he can be tried on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, depredation against federal government property and unlawful entry, disorderly or violent conduct and destruction of records in a federal investigation, Wilson said.
“I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, but never have I ever seen anything like this,” Wilson said. “I simply cannot imagine people planning to do this. They might get together and talk about it, just blowing smoke, but in this case they actually went through with it. So if I cannot conceive of someone doing this, what other inconceivable things could they do?”
According to indictment documents, Young submitted his application to join the Florida Chapter of the Oath Keepers on Dec. 3, and recruited his sister, 52-year-old Laura Steele of Thomasville, N.C., to sign on to the organization the following month so she could join him in the planned attack.
“Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, they explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military,” the indictment read.
Young’s co-defendants include Dunnellon couple Connie Meggs, 59, and her husband Kelly Meggs, 52, whom court records say is the “self-described leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers.”
According to the court documents, Young and his sister are alleged to have donned paramilitary gear and joined a “military-style stack” formation that marched up the center steps of the east side of the U.S. Capitol building, breached the door at the top and then stormed inside. Young had planned for that moment since he joined the group in December, court records said, and even arranged for himself and three others to train with a “Florida company that conducts training on firearms and combat,” leading up to the insurrection.
In court, defense attorney Foley, argued that the Young’s participation in the insurrection was limited, with a main goal of rendering aid and assistance to those involved. The damage was done and the Capitol doors were already opened when he entered on Jan. 6, Foley said, and once inside he mainly worked to help others get out of the building. He has no criminal history, Foley said, and he turned himself in to authorities within 20 minutes of learning about a federal warrant for his arrest.
“He later deleted his Facebook account because he was humiliated and wanted to distance himself from the group,” Foley said.
But that doesn’t excuse his actions that day, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel George said.
Approximately 81 Capitol Policemen and 58 members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department were assaulted that day. At least five people were killed.
The day before the attack, Young circulated an Oath Keepers recruitment email, records show, and hours after he broke into the Capitol building he posted on Facebook: “We stormed and got inside.”
When FBI agents raided Young’s house, they recovered 300 rounds of ammunition, five guns, and other evidence of his involvement with the Oath Keepers, George said.
“It’s not possible to say he didn’t know what he was doing,” he said.
The Meggs were also ordered to be held in jail on Monday by a federal judge. And in another case stemming from the Jan. 6 attack, 38-year-old Paul Allard Hodgkins of Tampa was arrested Tuesday on three federal charges out of Washington, D.C., including violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.
Hodgkins was released on $25,000 unsecured bond shortly after his arrest, records show. He has surrendered his firearms and passport and agreed to a 1:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. curfew. A Zoom conference in Hodgkins’ case is scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m.
The FBI is still looking for individuals who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-225-5324 or submit images or videos at www.tips.fbi.gov.