Thomas Caldwell, Capitol Rioter Who Used to Work for FBI, Was Using American Flag as Crutch

Thomas Caldwell, an alleged orchestrator of the Capitol riot, denies he could have led the charge because he is an "old cripple" who was using an American flag pole as a pseudo crutch.

Caldwell is accused of being a leader of the Capitol riot and has been in custody as he awaits trial. In arguing for and against his release, prosecutors and Caldwell's attorney point to the same messages, but while the government sees it as an admission of guilt, his attorney considers it evidence the riot was spontaneous and even if it was planned, that his client was physically unable to participate.

"Mr. Caldwell is adamant that he's innocent," David Fischer, his attorney, told Newsweek.

The 65-year-old has had multiple spinal fusions and is considered 100 percent disabled. At the time of the riot, his attorney wrote in a court filing that he was using the staff of an American flag as a crutch.

"Comically, the Government takes Caldwell's social media Walter Mittyisms literally, as if this 'old cripple' was going to rip his shirt off, grab an American flag, jump through barricades, run the Capitol stairs, and lead the charge of the peasants," Fischer wrote in a court memo arguing for his release.

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The attorney for Thomas Caldwell, who's accused of being an orchestrator of the Capitol riot, argued his client couldn't storm the Capitol even if he wanted to because of physical limitations. Department of Justice/Getty Images

In a January 8 signal message recounting his time at the Capitol, Caldwell admits he'd been on the Oath Keepers intel net "for months now" and most of his "Oath Keeper pals" were on the opposite side of the building. Having sat down at a fountain on the west side because his "back was killing me," Caldwell writes in the message he stood up on the fountain and said, "let's go. Patriots forward!" after police deployed tear gas.

He wrote the crowd "surged forward" and he tried to get onto the steps people were using to get inside, but it was "so packed" he couldn't get on the steps and the lack of a railing "looked dangerous as hell."

His attorney argued the message showed that Caldwell saw the riot as a spontaneous event and he couldn't be responsible for Oath Keepers entering the Capitol in a "stack," a reference to a tactical formation if he was unaware of the plan.

Caldwell is accused of conspiring with members of the Oath Keepers, an extremist right-wing militia group, to attack the Capitol, and entering it on January 6 as Congress met to certify the election results.

While Caldwell may not have been a dues-paying member of the Oath Keepers, the government argued that the defendant's communication with members of the group, including discussion of where people should stay, amounts to conspiring to delay or stop Congress' certification of the vote.

"This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to," Caldwell told a co-defendant on January 2 about a hotel, according to court filings.

His attorney argued recommending a hotel is not evidence of a conspiracy and that "hunting" referred to concerns about Antifa. He also pointed to the government's lack of evidence that Caldwell was part of a Signal chat with his co-conspirators that showed they were "actively planning to use force and violence."

Part of those alleged plans was to establish a "quick reaction force" stationed in Virginia, outside the Capital, in case those attending former President Donald Trump's speech needed reinforcement. The government cites Caldwell providing maps to this force as his involvement in helping to plan the riot.

A former Navy commander, Caldwell worked for the FBI at one point and had a top-secret security clearance. His attorney, in a court filing, argued the quick reaction force was intended to "protect rally supporters from Antifa," and had the Capitol Police engaged in the same level of planning, rioters may have been limited to protesting outside the building.

"Ironically, had the U.S. Capitol Police leadership engaged in the level of strategic planning that Caldwell and others did, the Capitol would have never been breached," Fischer wrote in the court filing.

The government also accused Caldwell of destroying relevant evidence to the case and that his attorney didn't present any significant change to the information that was available when the judge ruled he would be detained until his trial in February. The judge is expected to rule on the reconsideration of pretrial release on Friday.