After a significant drop in mass shootings in the United States during a pandemic-hit 2020, this year has seen several deadly onesBy The Associated PressApril 16, 2021, 5:33 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleAfter a significant drop in mass shootings in the United States during a pandemic-hit 2020, this year has already seen several deadly cases.Police in Indianapolis say eight people were shot and killed in a shooting late Thursday at a FedEx facility. The shooter also killed himself.It follows a lull in mass killings during the pandemic in 2020, which had the smallest number of such attacks in more than a decade, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University. That database tracks mass killings defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter.President Joe Biden last week announced a half-dozen executive actions to combat what he called an “epidemic and an international embarrassment” of gun violence in America. But he said much more is needed.Here are a few recent mass shootings.ATLANTAEight people were killed by a gunman at three Atlanta-area massage businesses in attacks that began the evening of March 16. Seven of the slain were women, and six were of Asian descent. Police charged a 21-year-old white man with the killings. There was deep skepticism over the shooter’s claim his motive was sex addiction. There was public clamoring for hate crime charges, especially among the Asian American community, which has faced rising numbers of attacks since the coronavirus pandemic took hold.———BOULDER, COLORADOAbout a week later, on March 22, a shooter at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, killed 10 people, including a police officer who was the first to respond to the scene. The suspect bought a firearm at a local gun store after passing a background check. Investigators are working to determine the motive for the shooting and why the suspect chose the King Soopers grocery store.———ORANGE, CALIFORNIAOn March 31, a gunman killed four people and critically wounded a fifth at a Southern California office building. He knew all the victims. Apparently before opening fire, he chained shut the gates to two entrances, delaying police from getting inside. Among the victims was a 9-year-old boy who was found cradled in the arms of a woman believed to be his mother. The woman was the only survivor among those shot. The others killed were a man and two women.———ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINAA week later, on April 7, former NFL player Phillip Adams shot six people. Robert Lesslie, a prominent doctor, was killed along with his wife, two of their grandchildren and two air conditioning technicians who were working at their home. Adams also killed himself. His brain is now being examined for possible degenerative disease that has been shown to cause violent mood swings and other cognitive disorders in some athletes and members of the military.———This story has been updated to correct that the Gun Violence Archive did not register a decline in its tally of mass shootings — which includes non-fatal shootings — between 2019 and 2020. It did register a fall in what it calls mass murders.
President Joe Biden is backtracking on his proposal earlier this year to drastically increase the number of refugees admitted in the coming months to 62,500, leaving in place a historically low limit set by former President Donald Trump as thousands of refugees wait abroad.Instead, he will keep the Trump-era cap in place at 15,000 people for the current fiscal year, which lasts until the end of September, according to a senior Biden administration official.Doing so puts Biden on track to oversee possibly the lowest number of refugee admissions in the program’s near 45-year history, despite his promises to reignite “the United States’ moral leadership on refugee issues.”The White House defended the decision by pointing to Trump’s destruction of the refugee resettlement program, although resettlement agencies rejected that reasoning, and the situation at the southern U.S. border, which the administration previously spent weeks downplaying.Refugees and migrants make their way in the Mavrovouni camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 29, 2021.The decision leaves tens of thousands of refugees waiting abroad — in camps or elsewhere — even as communities across the U.S. stand ready to accept them. In the two months since Biden signed an executive order to reignite the refugee program, hundreds of refugees have been in limbo after their travel to the U.S. was canceled pending a decision from Biden.Some 35,000 refugees who have already been vetted and cleared for travel to the U.S. will wait overseas, with over 100,000 more in the pipeline unsure how long they will have to wait as well, according to the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency.Democrats blasted the announcement in unusually fierce criticism of a president from their own party.”Completely and utterly unacceptable,” Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted. “Biden promised to welcome immigrants, and people voted for him based on that promise. Upholding the xenophobic and racist policies of the Trump admin, incl the historically low + plummeted refugee cap, is flat out wrong. Keep your promise.”Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who herself is a refugee from Somalia, called Biden’s decision “shameful.””It is simply unacceptable and unconscionable that the Biden Administration is not immediately repealing Donald Trump’s harmful, xenophobic, and racist refugee cap,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said. “President Biden has broken his promise to restore our humanity.”Biden’s February executive order pledged to admit 125,000 refugees annually starting next fiscal year, and a White House official told ABC News Friday he was still committed to doing so.But around the same time, the Biden administration sent a report to Congress that proposed raising the maximum number of refugees allowed in this fiscal year to 62,500.Just last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that, “yes,” the White House was still committed to raising the cap to 62,500: “The president remains committed to raising the cap,” Psaki said on April 8.Now, however, the White House says that the influx of unaccompanied minors on the southern border has made it difficult for them to raise the number at all. The White House also blamed Trump for decimating the resettlement program in the U.S., while the senior administration official cited the COVID-19 pandemic without elaborating.Psaki said Friday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement “does do management and has personnel working on both issues” — the border and refugees — “and so, we have to ensure that there is capacity and ability to manage both.”But while one division of HHS helps manage refugees and asylum seekers, refugees come from abroad and go through a different system than migrants seeking asylum after entering U.S. territory.”Refugee resettlement has nothing to do with what is happening at the border. There exists a national network of organizations, churches and state offices who have decades of experience resettling refugees,” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group.President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, 2021.If anything, keeping a historically low refugee admissions cap in place could exacerbate the situation at the border, according to Dr. Austin Kocher, a research professor at Syracuse University, who said the decision could “prompt still more refugees to attempt to come through the asylum system, placing an even heavier burden on the U.S. immigration court system.”Psaki also said Friday “the other piece that has been a factor is that it took us some time to see and evaluate how ineffective, or how trashed, in some ways, the refugee processing system had become. And so, we had to rebuild some of those muscles and put it back in place.”But resettlement agencies have told ABC News that they could meet Biden’s proposed 62,500 cap with help from the administration — something the administration doesn’t seem intent on providing.”While it is true the Trump administration left the resettlement infrastructure in tatters, we feel confident and able to serve far more families than this order accounts for,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the head of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of the largest national resettlement agencies.Friday’s decision followed reports this week that said Biden had delayed raising the cap because he was concerned about the “optics” of letting more refugees in while also letting unaccompanied minors on the border stay in the country.It also came after Omar, Jayapal, Ocasio-Cortez and 43 other Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Biden earlier Friday calling on him to immediately raise the cap to 62,500.Unaccompanied immigrant children walk surrounded by staff members through the Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility in a frame grab from pool video shot during a tour for White House officials and members of Congress held by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement and the Department of Health and Human Services, who run the facility for immigrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, March 24, 2021.The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said that Biden slow walking a decision “has had serious repercussions” — potentially leading to even fewer than 15,000 refugees being admitted this fiscal year.One thing that is changing, though, is how the 15,000 slots for this year will be split up among different regions, according to the senior administration official. Trump had blocked many Muslim and African refugees by prioritizing smaller groups of refugees, like Iraqi Christians. The new allocation will prioritize them, according to the senior administration official, which they say will allow the 15,000 cap to be met more quickly.Specifically, Biden will fill 7,000 slots for refugees from Africa, where a huge amount of people are displaced by conflict, climate change, and more, and 3,000 for Latin America and the Caribbean, where the Venezuela migration crisis threatens to overtake the number of folks fleeing Syria.The official said the Biden administration was open to increasing the 15,000 number, if needed to address an “unforeseen emergency situation.”ABC News’ Ben Siegel contributed to this report.
A House Republican fundraising committee controlled by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy received over $770,000 from Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas casino mogul who stepped down from his company in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconductBy BRIAN SLODYSKO Associated PressApril 16, 2021, 6:48 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — A major House Republican fundraising committee overseen by GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy received over $770,000 from Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas casino mogul who stepped down from his company in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct.The donation, which Wynn made in late March, was one of the largest given so far this election cycle to Take Back the House 2022, according to campaign finance disclosures made public Thursday. The committee splits massive fundraising hauls between 59 Republican House members, as well as about 20 other GOP political operations.The acceptance of the sum amounts to a reversal by McCarthy, who in 2018 joined a growing chorus of Republicans who said they would donate campaign cash given by Wynn to charity after the misconduct allegations surfaced. Wynn has denied the allegations.The contribution underscores Republicans’ willingness to look beyond the messy and potentially problematic backgrounds of some donors as they embark on the massively expensive task of attempting to wrest control of the House back from Democrats.A spokesman for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Wynn declined to comment through a spokeswoman.“He has the same rights and entitlements as any other private citizen in the United States of America,” said Donald Campbell, an attorney for Wynn, when asked about the donations.The misconduct allegations against Wynn came at a high-point in the #MeToo movement. The Wall Street Journal reported that several women said the billionaire harassed or assaulted them and that one case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist formerly employed by the company.At the time, Republicans were forcefully criticizing Democrats over past donations they accepted from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was later sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault.The accusations against Wynn led to his abrupt resignation from Wynn Resorts. A prolific donor and fundraiser, he also stepped down from his post as campaign finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.In the years since, he has kept a relatively low profile. In 2020, he donated about $700,000 to former President Donald Trump’s fundraising operation, as well as $9 million to Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group that works to elect Republican senators. But he was otherwise largely shunned by rank-and-file Republicans in Congress.Records show the money he gave in March has already been disbursed to at least 55 House Republicans, who each received a $5,800 legal maximum donation that was raised through Take Back the House 2022.Democrats say that the House GOP’s acceptance of the donations indicates McCarthy was disingenuous when he previously rejected Wynn’s money.
Democrats in Colorado have condemned a Republican lawmaker for joking about lynching before saying a 18th century policy designating a slave as three-fifths of a person “was not impugning anybody’s humanity.”By PATTY NIEBERG Associated Press/Report for AmericaApril 16, 2021, 6:43 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleDENVER — Democrats in Colorado have condemned a Republican lawmaker for joking about lynching before saying a 18th century policy designating a slave as three-fifths of a person “was not impugning anybody’s humanity.”State Rep. Ron Hanks was speaking on the House floor Thursday about legislation aimed at strengthening civics education in schools. He was accidentally introduced as fellow Rep. Mike Lynch.“Being called Mr. Lynch might be a good thing for what I’m about to say. No, just kidding,” Hanks said.Hanks, who is white, then spoke about the Three-Fifths Compromise, which was made during the nation’s Constitutional Convention in 1787 and classified a slave as three-fifths of a person when apportioning taxes and states’ representation in Congress.“It was not impugning anybody’s humanity,” Hanks said. “Is this really racist to be talking about what the Three-Fifths Compromise was? I don’t think so, and I think it’s important. It’s part of the civics lesson here. It was brought up, and it merits discussion.”Hanks added that the compromise was an effort by the Northern states to keep Southern states from having too much representation in Congress and push slavery beyond the South.“It took a war to do it. It took 600,000 American lives. It took a lot of treasure. That’s the kind of thing that ought to be taught,” Hanks said.Halisi Vinson, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Hanks’ comments were a way to “whitesplain the historical experience of Black people.”“The fact that Representative Hanks thought it would be appropriate to make a ‘joke’ about lynching — especially at a time when we’re seeing a rise of racially motivated assaults on people of color across our country — is utterly despicable,” Vinson said in a statement.Shenika Carter, chair of the African Diaspora Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, said that calling Hank’s comments “disgusting and ignorant would be a gross understatement.””For him to downplay the indisputable, historical fact that enslaved Black people were treated less a person’s worth both in law and in practice is offensive and beneath the dignity of our state legislature,” Carter said in a statement.Hanks told The Associated Press that video of his comments was manipulated to make a point that he didn’t make.“It built the union by having such a compromise. Abhorrent as we may see it in today’s terms, it took a civil war, 80 years later to settle the issue,” Hanks said.He was speaking about legislation that requires lessons on the three branches of government, how laws are enacted and the formation and development of government at the state and federal level.He came under scrutiny from other members of the Legislature for marching from then-President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol before rioters stormed the building on Jan. 6.———Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
News of the forthcoming book sparked immediate backlash on social media.April 16, 2021, 6:43 PM• 6 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSimon & Schuster said it will not distribute a forthcoming book from publishing house Post Hill Press written by one of the police officers who opened fire during the deadly raid of Breonna Taylor’s home.John Mattingly, who is set to author the book, was one of the three plainclothes police officers who barged into the home of Taylor on a no-knock warrant in March 2020. The officers unleashed a hail of gunfire during the botched drug raid and Taylor, who was asleep as they entered, died at the scene.Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly is pictured here.The officers fired 32 bullets into her apartment, according to a ballistics report from the Kentucky State Police. Police found no drugs inside Taylor’s home.”Like much of the American public, earlier today Simon & Schuster learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly. We have subsequently decided not be involved in the distribution of this book,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement Thursday evening.”Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan interviews Jonathan Mattingly in an exclusive sit down with ABC News and The Louisville Courier Journal.The publishing giant’s statement came after immense backlash to news of the book emerged on social media, especially from the literary world.”People love to profit off of Black pain and tragedy. It sells,” Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott, who was teargassed and arrested during summer protests for Taylor, tweeted Thursday.Author Don Winslow wrote in a tweet sharing the news: “This is just wrong. Horribly wrong. Don’t do this.”Author Celeste Ng also reacted to the news in a lengthy Twitter thread, calling it “absolutely disgusting.”Protesters march through downtown Louisville after a grand jury decided not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 25, 2020.Kelsey Merritt, a spokesperson for Post Hill Press, told ABC News via email that the publishing house “continues to move forward with plans to publish Sgt. Mattingly’s book.””His story is important and it deserves to be heard by the public at large,” Merritt added. “We feel strongly that an open dialogue is essential to shining a light on the challenging issues our country is facing.”Mattingly was shot in the leg during the raid after Taylor’s boyfriend, a licensed gun carrier, thought someone was breaking into the home.A year after Taylor’s death, Mattingly is still employed by the Louisville Metro Police Department. The two other officers involved in the raid have been fired.Mattingly’s book is titled “The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal, which first broke the story of the officer’s book.ABC News’ Marlene Lenthang contributed to this report.
Raul Castro says he is resigning as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership by he and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the 1959 revolutionByThe Associated PressApril 16, 2021, 6:51 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHAVANA — Raul Castro said Friday he is resigning as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership by he and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the 1959 revolution.Castro made the announcement Friday in a speech at the opening of the Eighth congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.Castro didn’t say who he would endorse as his successor as first secretary-general of the Communist Party, but he previously has indicated that he favors yielding control to Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded him as president in 2018.
A former New York City police officer has pleaded guilty to an obstruction charge in a murder-for-hire plot that authorities say sought the death of her husband and her boyfriend’s teenage daughterByThe Associated PressApril 16, 2021, 6:18 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — A former New York City police officer pleaded guilty Friday to an obstruction of justice charge in a murder-for-hire plot that authorities say sought the death of her husband and her boyfriend’s teenage daughter.Valerie Cincinelli, 36, entered the plea in Central Islip federal court on Long Island.Cincinelli, of Oceanside in Nassau County, said she was “truly sorry” for impeding a grand jury probe on May 17, 2019, by deleting information on an iPhone with the intention of obstructing a murder-for-hire probe.“I know that what I did was wrong,” she said.She is likely to face a sentence of up to five years in prison at a proceeding scheduled for Oct. 29. Though the charge carries a potential for up to 20 years behind bars, prosecutors as part of a plea deal have said they will not request more than five years.Having already spent over a year and a half locked up, a sobbing Cincinelli immediately sought bail, saying: “For two years, I haven’t seen my son.”U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert reserved decision, though she sounded sympathetic to arguments that bail under strict conditions including electronic monitoring might be appropriate prior to sentencing, since Cincinelli might face less than two more years in prison.Seybert took over the case after Judge Sandra Feuerstein was hit by a car and killed last week in Boca Raton, Florida.As part of Cincinelli’s plea deal, prosecutors plan to drop two charges accusing Cincinelli of paying her lover to kill her husband. The lover went to authorities, and she was arrested.A criminal complaint had alleged that Cincinelli asked a confidential FBI source to help her hire a hit man to kill the husband and a minor whose identities weren’t made public — for $7,000. Cincinelli allegedly destroyed two cellphones and the records they contained to block the investigation.Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Bagnuola said Friday that had the case reached trial, prosecutors would have played audio and video recordings in which Cincinelli and her then-boyfriend discussed a plot to have a hit man murder her estranged husband and her boyfriend’s teenage daughter.Bagnuola said Cincinelli was heard on the recordings saying she planned to evade any law enforcement probe by offering an alibi and an alternative motive for the killing.He said law enforcement authorities on May 17, 2019, advised Cincinelli falsely that her husband was found dead and that law enforcement was investigating the death.The prosecutor said an FBI agent would have testified that he posed as the hit man and the jury would have seen a video recording of Cincinelli at the moment she saw the photo purported to be her dead husband.
“I will absolutely follow up,” said the BOP director at a Thursday hearing. April 16, 2021, 5:01 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCongress could soon get answers as to how financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in Bureau of Prisons custody in August 2019, according to testimony given by BOP Director Michael Carvajal at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.Epstein died while being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, and almost two years after his death, the BOP has not yet provided the customary report about the circumstances surrounding his death.Two Metropolitan Correctional Center officers were charged in November 2019 with destroying evidence in connection with the Epstein suicide. They have both pleaded not guilty.During the hearing, Carvajal told Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., there was no case that represents a “crisis of public trust” more than Epstein’s suicide.Given Epstein’s high-profile for being a well-known fancancier charged with sex trafficking of minors, his suicide led to serious questions over how he could have been allowed to take his life while in BOP custody.The Department of Justice inspector general has been investigating the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s suicide.Carvajal said prior to Thursday’s hearing he had his deputy director call the DOJ inspector general, who said the investigation is “on hold” until the June trial of two corrections officers takes place.Carvajal said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death before the trial and while the inspector general has paused the investigation.”Here’s what I will commit to: that after that investigation is over, and all of these things have been appropriately done I will absolutely follow up with you on anything regarding what we could do better or different,” he said. “I don’t think it’d be appropriate for me to get into any of that right now. So, it’s under litigation, I’ve been advised not to speak about it.”Michael Carvajal, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on April 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C.Sasse also asked about Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell’s safety in federal prison.Maxwell was arrested by federal authorities last year in New Hampshire and is facing a six-count federal indictment alleging that she conspired with Epstein in a multi-state sex trafficking scheme involving three unnamed minor victims between 1994 and 1997. Prosecutors contend Maxwell not only “befriended” and later “enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein, through a variety of means and methods,” but that she was also, at times, “present for and involved” in the abuse herself.Carvajal did not discuss her circumstances in prison but said her relationship to the case has no bearing on the BOP’s duty to keep her safe.”We are going to apply the appropriate security that we think we need to do to protect that individual, protect the staff, protect everyone. And we do that individually assessing these cases,” he said.Maxwell was given paper clothes upon checking into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn last year over fears that she might take her own life, two federal law enforcement sources confirmed to ABC News.Carvajal said that the BOP has learned from the Epstein incident.”The answer is we learned lessons from that and we have made adjustments, it’s just not appropriate for me to discuss them,” Carvajal said.
Facing pressure to do more on gun control, he said Congress must move next.April 16, 2021, 4:49 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePresident Joe Biden, faced with yet another mass shooting on his watch, said Friday that the news of at least eight Americans killed in Indianapolis on Thursday night has “become too normal.””Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” Biden said in a written statement. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.”President Joe Biden delivers a speech, March 31, 2021, at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center in Pittsburgh.Biden said that he had been briefed on the shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, and ordered the flags lowered to half-staff in honor of those who died “just two weeks after I gave the last such order.””Last night and into the morning in Indianapolis, yet again families had to wait to hear word about the fate of their loved ones,” Biden said. “What a cruel wait and fate that has become too normal and happens every day somewhere in our nation. Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But we should not accept it. We must act.”Just last week, in the wake of mass shootings in Boulder and Atlanta, Biden announced actions to reduce gun violence including directing the Department of Justice to regulate the sale of ghost guns, but there are only limited actions a president can take without Congress passing legislation.Biden, who has faced pressure to call more forcefully for gun control measures, said in his Friday statement that it’s up to Congress act next, including on some gun control legislation that has already been passed by the House.President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia in the East Room at the White House, April 15, 2021.”I also urged Congress to hear the call of the American people – including the vast majority of gun owners – to enact commonsense gun violence prevention legislation, like universal background checks and a ban of weapons of war and high-capacity magazines,” Biden said.Biden was pressed on what he was going to do to tackle gun control in late March during his first formal press conference. Biden sidestepped the question, saying while he would pursue the issue, infrastructure was his next major policy goal.”Successful presidents — better than me — have been successful, in large part, because they know how to time what they’re doing — order it, decide and prioritize what needs to be done,” Biden said.Biden said that gun control was a “long-term problem.””And what we’re going to be able to do, God willing, is now begin, one at a time, to focus on those as well,” Biden said.
A heavy metal guitarist has become the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. CapitolBy MICHAEL BALSAMO and ALANNA DURKIN RICHER Associated PressApril 16, 2021, 4:54 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — A heavy metal guitarist on Friday became the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.Jon Ryan Schaffer, the frontman of the band Iced Earth, has agreed to cooperate with investigators in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, and the Justice Department will consider putting Schaffer in the federal witness security program, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said.This signals that federal prosecutors see him as a valuable cooperator as they continue to investigate the militia groups and other extremists involved in the insurrection on Jan. 6 as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral win.Schaffer, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, was accused of storming the Capitol and spraying police officers with bear spray. He pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in federal court in Washington to two counts: obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon.An email seeking comment was sent to an attorney for Schaffer.Schaffer is among more than 370 people facing federal charges in the deadly insurrection, which sent lawmakers into hiding and delayed the certification of Biden’s win. The Justice Department has indicated it is in separate plea negotiations with other defendants.Authorities say Schaffer was caught on camera holding bear spray and engaging in verbal altercations with officers in the Capitol. Schaffer was wearing a baseball hat that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member” on Jan. 6, but was not charged in the large case involving members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, who are accused of conspiring with one another to block the certification of the vote.Schaffer has voiced various conspiracy theories, once telling a German news station that a shadowy criminal enterprise is trying to run the world under a communist agenda and that he and others are prepared to fight, with violence.In court documents, the FBI said Schaffer “has long held far-right extremist views” and that he had previously “referred to the federal government as a ‘criminal enterprise.’”He turned himself in to the FBI a few weeks after the riot, after his photograph was featured on an FBI poster seeking the public’s help in identifying rioters.