A 46-year-old California man accused of planning to blow up the state Democratic Party headquarters Friday pleaded guilty. Prosecutors allege he and another man planned to carry out other politically motivated attacks as well.
Ian Benjamin Rogers, of Napa, pleaded guilty to conspiring to destroy a building by fire or explosives, possessing an explosive device and possessing a machine gun under a plea agreement that may have sent him to federal prison for up to nine years.
Federal prosecutors in San Francisco last year charged Rogers and Jarrod Copeland, 38, with conspiring to attack Democratic party targets. U.S. Attorneys claim the militant plans were formed after former President Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss.
Rogers told Copeland, “I want to blow up a democrat building bad” in January 2021. Copeland allegedly agreed, saying, “I agree; plan attack.” They allegedly agreed to start with the Democratic Headquarters in Sacramento to “see what happens.” In one exchange Rogers wrote to Copeland, “after the 20th we go to war,” which federal prosecutors took to mean they would initiate violence after the Inauguration on January 20, 2021.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds in a July 2021 statement.
Law enforcement officers searched Rogers’ home and business on January 15, according to court documents. That was just five days before the Inauguration that would trigger the start of their planned campaign of violence. Investigators reported finding almost 50 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and five pipe bombs during their searches.
Copeland allegedly tried to destroy evidence of the plan. According to Hinds, Copeland communicated with a leader of a militia group after Rogers’ arrest. That individual allegedly advised Copeland to switch to a new communications platform and delete everything he had. Copeland reportedly agreed. When law enforcement obtained Copeland’s devices on January 17, Copeland’s communications with Rogers were missing, according to the Justice Department.
Additional documents filed by the government argue the two men understood they would be viewed as domestic terrorists. They allegedly hoped their violent acts might start a movement to overthrow the government.
In November 2020, Rogers allegedly used encrypted messaging applications to tell Copeland he would “hit the enemy in the mouth” using Molotov cocktails and gasoline. He outlined plans to attack targets associated with Democrats, including the governor’s mansion and the Democratic Headquarters building in Sacramento.