SACRAMENTO — Ian Benjamin Rogers had five illegal pipe bombs and nearly 50 weapons at his home and shop in California’s wine country, a “ThreePercenters” bumper sticker on his vehicle, a “white privilege card” at his house, and text messages that led federal prosecutors to charge him with conspiring to firebomb the state Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento.
His attorney admits his client is in serious trouble, but said Friday that the alleged plot was nothing more than drunken talk between two buddies inflamed by the defeat of former president Donald Trump.
“Firebombing your perceived political opponents is illegal and does not nurture the sort of open and vigorous debate that created and supports our constitutional democracy,” US Attorney Stephanie Hinds said in announcing the unsealing of an indictment Thursday in San Francisco federal court.
Also charged is Jarrod Copeland, 37, of nearby Vallejo, who was arrested Wednesday and for whom no attorney is yet listed.
Rogers, 45, has been in custody on related state charges since mid-January, when the FBI in an affidavit said he sent text messages that agents interpreted as threats against the offices of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and social media companies Facebook and Twitter.
The new indictment alleges their first intended target was the Democratic Party headquarters, one of a series of planned attacks they hoped would prompt a burgeoning movement of those upset with Trump’s defeat.
“I want to blow up a democrat building bad,” Rogers wrote, according to the indictment, to which Copeland responded, “I agree” and “Plan attack.”
“Let’s see what happens after the 20th we go to war,” Rogers wrote, which prosecutors said meant they intended to begin acts of violence after President Joe Biden was inaugurated on Jan. 20.
“Heads must be taken,” Copeland wrote at one point, according to the court documents. “I don’t like to think it but I think we will have to die for what we believe in.”
In November, prosecutors say Rogers used an encrypted messaging application to tell Copeland that he would “hit the enemy in the mouth” by using Molotov cocktails and gasoline to attack targets including the Governor’s Mansion and the state party headquarters.
Before switching targets, they initially focused on the unoccupied Governor’s Mansion because “its empty no casualties,” Rogers wrote and Copeland agreed, according to court documents. “Would send a message.”
Prosecutors also say that in late December 2020, Copeland told Rogers he contacted an anti-government militia group to gather support for their movement. After the arrest of Rogers, they say Copeland communicated with a leader of a militia group who advised Copeland to delete his old messages and switch to a new communication platform.
“The so-called conspiracy was a lot of drunken talk and bluster between two friends who share the same political beliefs, but it was no more than that,” countered Rogers’ defense attorney on the Napa County charges, Jess Raphael.
His client is a mechanic who has an auto repair shop and likes to tinker with things, he said.
That includes building the pipe bombs that Raphael said were safely stored, built long before the recent unrest, and that Rogers intended to take camping with his kids to blow up a stump or make dirt fly.
Rogers began collecting the 49 firearms seized from his home in 2008 and bought no new firearms recently, Raphael said. But he acknowledged his client is in serious trouble for turning several of them into machine guns and altering others to violate California’s definition of illegal assault weapons.
Investigators also pointed to the “ThreePercenters” bumper sticker on a vehicle belonging to Rogers, signaling support for an anti-government movement named after the belief that just 3% of American colonists defeated the British during the American Revolution. Raphael said he got it at a barbeque at a local shooting range.