A Napa man and and a Vallejo man have been charged with plotting to blow up the Democratic Party’s headquarters in the state capital, a bombing they hoped would be the first in a series of politically-motivated attacks, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
Ian Benjamin Rogers, 45, of Napa and Jarrod Copeland, 37, of Vallejo each face multiple charges including conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used or in affecting interstate commerce, prosecutors said.
The pair used multiple messaging apps to plan to attack targets they associated with Democrats after the November 2020 presidential election, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Their first intended target was the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento, prosecutors said.
“According to the indictment, the defendants planned to use incendiary devices to attack their targets and hoped their attacks would prompt a movement,” the statement said.
Rogers is charged with additional weapons violations, including one count of possession of unregistered destructive devices, and three counts of possession of machine guns. Copeland, of Vallejo, is charged with an additional count of destruction of records.
Napa attorney Jess Raphael, who represents Rogers on related state charges (but not the federal charges), said his client never actually intended to cause any harm.
"It’s clear that these were two ideologues who were caught up in the passion and drama of last January, and engaged in drunken bluster and rhetoric with no actual intent to act," he told the Napa Valley Register on Friday, after the new federal charges were announced. "There is no evidence whatsoever that any preparatory actions were taken. It was all intoxicated speech."
He added that Rogers was a longtime weapons collector and had no intent to use them in a violent manner.
"They were not accumulated to promote any perceived plot. The pipe bombs were made long before the election strife with rudimentary materials like ammunition reload powder that Mr Rogers had on hand, with the intent to set them off on camping trips, blowing up tree stumps and the like," he said. "All were kept in a thick gun safe in his shop that kept them secure from accident."
State and federal prosecutors, however, say the words were more meaningful and ominous.
“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.
In late December 2020, Copeland told Rogers he contacted an anti-government militia group to gather support for their movement, according to court documents.
In one exchange, Rogers wrote to Copeland, “after the 20th we go to war,” meaning that they would initiate acts of violence after Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, the court papers say.
On Jan. 15, law enforcement officers searched Rogers’s Napa County home and seized a cache of weapons, including 45 to 50 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and five pipe bombs, prosecutors said.
Copeland is accused of attempting to destroy evidence of the plan after Rogers’ Jan. 15 arrest.
Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party, called the accusations “extremely disturbing.”
“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 in a statement. “Yet, it points to a broader issue of violent extremism that is far too common in today’s political discourse.”
Copeland was arrested Wednesday and made an initial court appearance Thursday. He’s scheduled to appear in court again on July 20 for a detention hearing. Rogers is scheduled to appear in court July 30 for a status conference.
If convicted on all charges, each defendant faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, officials said.
Editor's note: This item has been updated to include a comment from an attorney for Rogers.
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