WASHINGTON — A member of the Oath Keepers convicted in connection with Jan. 6 wanted to be a part of the attack on the Capitol because he thought it was similar to the 1789 storming of the Bastille, he said during courtroom testimony against other members of the far-right group on Monday.
“I felt it was like a Bastille-type moment in history,” Graydon Young told jurors in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the organization. “I thought that I participated in something that was potentially a historically significant event.”
Young, who previously pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy and obstruction of Congress and agreed to cooperate with the government, said during the trial’s fifth week of testimony that there was “pandemonium” inside the Capitol when he entered on Jan. 6. “It was crazy,” Young said.
Young, 57, described how he felt “desperation and hopelessness” in the wake of the 2020 presidential election after former President Donald Trump lost. He said he “listened to what Trump’s attorneys were saying” about the election and got sucked into conspiracy theories online.
“Unfortunately, I was spending way too much time on YouTube and Facebook,” Young testified. He also said he went back and forth about whether he wanted to go to D.C. on Jan. 6 because he thought more than a traditional protest was needed, and that picketing wasn’t going to bring about any change.
“I thought protests were a waste of time, and they don’t achieve anything,” Young testified.
Young, a Navy reservist for more than a decade before the 2020 election, said that by the fall of 2020 he was helping his wife run a small pre-school and managing some rental properties. He said that left him with a lot of free time, during which he closely followed the election.
On Jan. 6, Young testified, he was with his sister Laura Steele, who has also been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack but has pleaded not guilty. He later joined a group that rushed to the Capitol after hearing it was breached, Young said in court.
“Obviously, all of us were aware of what was going on in the building,” Young said. “I wanted to have some kind of an impact on that and change what was happening.”
Young went on to testify that once the Oath Keepers went back outside after storming the building, they talked about what kind of protection the police officers had — including the type of body armor worn — and spoke about how they wished they’d brought gas masks to counter the tear gas used by police.
“If we had been more geared up and prepared, we might have been able to get through the police barrier,” Young said they discussed.
Later, he posted on Facebook: “We stormed and got inside.”
Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn testified earlier in the day that Oath Keepers did not assist him during the Jan. 6 attack when he was guarding a staircase, and that the most helpful thing the rioters could have done that day was leave.
Young said he now feels “extremely ashamed and embarrassed” about what he did, but at the time “I didn’t feel bad about it.”
He also became emotional while discussing his guilty plea.
“I hope the government will take into account I’m really sorry for what I did,” he said, choking up. Judge Amit Mehta handed Young a tissue box and he paused for a moment to collect himself.
“To be forgiven, you have to confess,” Young said. “I felt like I needed to confess completely and wholly.”
He later said, “I guess I was acting like a traitor against my own government.”
The government is expected to call more witnesses this week before resting its case. Rhodes is expected to testify on his own behalf when the defense presents its case.