One of the five people on trial for seditious conspiracy related to the January 6, 2021, attack testified in his own defense on Tuesday, claiming he was joking when he discussed storming the US Capitol.
Thomas Caldwell, a 68-year-old Navy veteran, is the second defendant to testify in his own defense during the Oath Keepers trial and allegedly sent some of the most violence-laced messages presented to the jury.
On January 6, Thomas Caldwell sent messages on social media and texts about “assaulting” the Capitol to associates in his home state of Virginia. But Caldwell claimed those messages were just a “play by play,” touting his past as a radio announcer for high school sports.
Caldwell testified he was just being “a little bit of a goof” when he made other comments that were captured on video on January 6, including derogatory comments about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and shouting that he knew where then Vice President Mike Pence lived.
When confronted with some of his most violent messages sent to friends, including a December 2020 message in which Caldwell wrote that he hoped then President Donald Trump would “start rounding up and executing traitors,” Caldwell testified: “I didn’t mean that,” without elaborating.
Caldwell, who said he does “a lot of creative writing,” also claimed that some of his bombastic or explicitly violent messages shown during the trial were simply taken from screenplays he had worked on or were references to the video game “Call of Duty.”
Some jurors looked at each other when Caldwell tried to explain away his violent messages – one threw her head back in laughter while another rolled his eyes and waved dismissively.
Caldwell says he was never a member of the Oath Keepers and has pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges.