A Punta Gorda member of the Oath Keepers militia group, who is charged in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., pleaded not guilty to federal charges this week.
A federal indictment against a group of Oath Keepers, including Punta Gorda resident David Moerschel, came through earlier this month, paving the way for the case to continue next year.
Moerschel, 43, is charged with aiding and abetting obstruction of justice-Congress, conspiracy to defraud the United States, unlawful entry into restricted buildings or grounds, aiding and abetting destruction of government property, and tampering with documents and proceedings.
Moerschel was indicted on those charges earlier this month and arraigned Dec. 6. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
He was released on his own recognizance, awaiting his next court appearance on Jan. 25, 2022.
Morerschel is one of roughly 19 defendants in a combined case; all defendants in the case are alleged to be members of the Oath Keepers, a militia-style organization that primarily recruits among military veterans and former law enforcement officers.
Federal authorities allege that the defendants took part, in varying degrees, in illegal entry to the U.S. Congress building on Jan. 6, during the certification of Electoral College results from the 2020 Presidential election.
Specifically, federal prosecutors allege that Moerschel and his co-defendants group were captured on video in a military-style “stack” formation, wearing helmets, reinforced vests and clothing with the Oath Keepers’ logo and insignia, moving through a crowd toward the doors of the Capitol. The subjects in the video are seen smashing glass window panes and causing more than $1,000 in damage to the doors.
FBI investigators have given prosecutors phone and credit card records which purportedly connect Moerschel with a “quick reaction force” within the Florida-based chapter of the Oath Keepers that were planning to be in Washington on Jan. 6.
Moerschel, through his attorney, previously turned over several items to the FBI over the summer, including a black flak vest, black jacket, black bag and gun case with a firearm.
According to PACER — the program that allows public access to federal court records — Moerschel has retained two attorneys as counsel: Nabeel Kibria, a D.C.-based criminal defense and immigration attorney, and Scott Weinberg, a Punta Gorda-based criminal defense attorney. It is unclear which attorney turned over the items to the FBI.
In October, two of Moerschel’s co-defendants attempted to file a motion with the court to allow their attorneys to present more pages than usual. The judge on the case, Judge Amit P. Mehta, rejected the motion in November, expressing some skepticism about the merits of the material being proffered.
“Whatever motion Defendants intend to file, the court will stop reading it after page 45 … The court will not allow this case to become a forum for bombastic arguments … or propagating fringe views about COVID-19 or vaccinations,” read the order denying the motion.
Such items indicated by Mehta had names such as “SCOTUS Could Not Have Foreseen the Holocaust,” “Pseudo-Science Displaces Science,” and “C19 Conspiracy Structure.”
“To this court’s knowledge, the D.C. Department of Corrections does not require any person held there to accept a COVID-19 vaccine,” read the order.
Mehta did say that if the defendants still wanted to seek a longer filing, they would have to file a brief “no more than five pages (excluding exhibits)” that establishes that such a mandatory vaccination policy is in place for D.C. Corrections.
Another member of the Oath Keepers, Englewood resident Graydon Young, pleaded guilty in June to two counts each of conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.