SAN FRANCISCO – A Napa mechanic who plotted for months with a former employee to attack political targets in California, including the Democrats’ Sacramento headquarters, was sentenced to nine years in prison on Wednesday, more than two years after his arrest by federal authorities.
Ian Rogers pleaded with U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to show mercy at Wednesday’s sentencing in San Francisco. Rogers reached a plea agreement with prosecutors last year for the 9-year term, but Breyer delayed sentencing Rogers during a hearing in September after he found that Rogers had failed to take responsibility for his actions.
Federal law enforcement agents raided Rogers’ home and business in January 2021 after receiving a tip that Rogers and a co-defendant, Jarrod Copeland, had been planning violence in retaliation for Donald Trump losing the 2020 presidential election. Numerous text messages between the two released by prosecutors showed them plotting to attack the Democrats, the governor’s mansion, and the offices of Facebook and Twitter.
The FBI seized nearly 50 guns, including illegal automatic weapons, and five pipe bombs in Rogers’ possession.
Copeland was also sentenced on Wednesday afternoon to four and a half years in prison. His attorney, John Ambrosio, asked to address Breyer in private regarding information he said could prompt the judge to accept a more lenient sentence and alluded to threats to his client’s safety. Breyer ultimately imposed the recommendation from prosecutors.
After delaying Rogers’ sentencing last September, Breyer commissioned Dr. John Chamberlain, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco, to evaluate whether Rogers posed a danger to society and what course of treatment might alleviate that danger. Chamberlain submitted an 18-page report in September that concluded Rogers was not a danger if he receives treatment for his alcoholism, according to Breyer.
At Wednesday’s sentencing, Breyer said that he was encouraged by that report, as well as a letter Rogers submitted to the court that took greater responsibility for his actions, as opposed to his appearance in September when he appeared angry at prosecutors and seemed to lament that he’d been discovered.
Rogers addressed the court again on Wednesday, but took a more conciliatory tone, and held back tears as he recounted how the charges against him have deprived him of time spent with his wife and two sons.
Rogers said that he regretted purchasing illegal weapons and building pipe bombs. He said that he rarely fired the machine guns and had never tested the pipe bombs he built. Possessing those weapons had ruined his life and the “fun” of owning them was not worth it, he said. “I did it to protect myself and my family from a potential future event that may or may not occur,” Rogers said.
Meanwhile, he said that prosecutors and media reports had painted a false picture of who he was. During the year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and other upheaval had disrupted normal life, impacted his business, deprived him of the opportunity to conduct normal life, and exacerbated his existing drinking problems, Rogers said.
In that context, after the 2020 election, he said many Americans felt “disenfranchised” due to the widespread notion spread by then-President Trump that the Democrats had committed fraud to cost him the presidency. Numerous courts have found Trump’s claims of election fraud to be unfounded.
Rogers said that the text messages with Copeland were the result of him drinking and saying things he did not intend to do. “I said a lot of silly, stupid things when sitting at home intoxicated,” Rogers said. “I can assure you I never seriously meant them.”
Rogers also pointed to a “non-existent” previous criminal record, although he was arrested for domestic violence months before his arrest by federal authorities and never charged.
Breyer said he found that Rogers had taken responsibility for his actions, and accepted that alcoholism had affected Rogers’ thinking and conduct.
Before sentencing Rogers, Breyer also heard a statement from California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks, who said that Rogers had impacted the party through the fear and distress he caused the roughly 20 employees and volunteers who work at the party headquarters regularly, the financial burden of increased security, and the chilling effect it had caused for party members who wish to participate in the Democratic process.
After their arrest, the party staff continued to worry that friends, allies or supporters of Rogers would carry out the attack he planned, Hicks said.
Breyer said that Hicks had actually understated the impact of the plot.
“The impact of the threat of violence affects everybody,” Breyer said. “It is a threat to the one thing we have in this country, that is an agreed upon process for protecting individual liberty and how government should be conducted.”
“Without that, we have no government, we have no consensus, and we have no collective United States of America,” Breyer said.
In a hearing later in the afternoon, Breyer sentenced Copeland to a term that was half what Rogers received. Federal sentencing guidelines indicated that Copeland could face a prison term of 15 to 19 years, but prosecutors requested the judge sentence him to four and a half. Prosecutors indicated that Copeland had provided substantial assistance to them.
Copeland’s role in the prosecution has been shrouded in secrecy. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Cheng said Wednesday that Copeland pleaded guilty on Nov. 16, 2021, but his plea was not entered in public records and was not made public until the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced in a press release that Copeland had pleaded guilty after Rogers pleaded guilty last May. U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson Abraham Simmons said that the plea was entered under seal.
Copeland also spoke during his sentencing hearing Wednesday and fought tears as he apologized for his conduct. Copeland said that he “allowed his thoughts to be polluted” when he and Rogers discussed planning attacks on political targets.
“These thoughts were not my truest self,” Copeland said. “The fault lies in my head, not in my heart.”
Since his arrest, Copeland said that he has cut ties with any political groups and “any group with an agenda.”
Prosecutors previously connected both Rogers and Copeland to a faction of the Three Percenter movement called the Three Percent United Patriots, a nationwide group founded in Colorado. Prosecutors have said that Three Percenters are an extremist group that believes in armed rebellion against the federal government.
Court documents alleged that Copeland sought assistance in the plan from other Three Percenters as well as the extremist group the Proud Boys.
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- Ian Rogers
- Jarrod Copeland
- Three Percenters
- Three Percent United Patriots
- Charles Breyer
- Donald Trump
- Rusty Hicks
Scott Morris is a journalist based in Oakland who covers policing, protest, civil rights and far-right extremism. His work has been published in ProPublica, the Appeal and Oaklandside.
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