Two California men charged with plotting to blow up Democratic headquarters

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Two California men are charged with plotting to attack the state Democratic headquarters, hoping a bombing of the building and other targets would spur a movement to overthrow the government, federal prosecutors said Thursday. 

Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa, and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo, used messaging apps to discuss plans to attack targets associated with Democrats following the 2020 presidential election, the Justice Department said. Their first target was the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento.

“I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” Rogers wrote, according to the indictment unsealed Thursday in San Francisco federal court. 

Copeland responded, “I agree” and “Plan attack,” the indictment says.

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The John L. Burton California Democratic Party Headquarters is seen in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday. Two California men have been charged with plotting to blow up the Democratic Party’s headquarters, a bombing they hoped would be the first in a series of politically-motivated attacks, federal prosecutors said. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Copeland was arrested Wednesday and appeared in court Thursday. Rogers has been in custody since Jan. 15. 

Both face conspiracy to destroy a building affecting interstate commerce and other crimes, prosecutors said. Rogers faces additional weapons charges and Copeland faces charges for the alleged destruction of records. 

In December 2020, Copeland told Rogers he contacted an anti-government militia group to round up support for their movement, court documents said. In one exchange, Rogers allegedly wrote “after the 20th we go to war,” referring to the incitement of violence after President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. 

Law enforcement officers searched Rogers’ home on Jan. 15 and seized 45 to 50 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs, prosecutors said. Copeland attempted to destroy evidence of their plan, according to the Justice Department. 

He allegedly was advised by the leader of a militia to switch to a new communications platform and delete everything he had. When law enforcement officials obtained his electronic devices on Jan. 17, all his communications with Rogers were missing. 

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Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party, said the alleged plot will not dissuade the party from “the important work of protecting and preserving a democracy that works for every person who calls California home.”

“We are relieved to know the plot was unsuccessful, the individuals believed to be responsible are in custody, and our staff and volunteers are safe and sound,” Hicks said. “Yet, it points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse. And, while we will continue to take every necessary precaution to keep everyone safe, we will not be distracted. We will not be deterred.”

Copeland is expected to appear in court on July 20 for a detention hearing. Rogers will make a court appearance on July 30 for a status hearing, prosecutors said. They each face up to 20 years in prison. 

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