An Ohio pastor from the Salt and Light Brigade who led protesters up the East steps of the U.S. Capitol and declared “mission accomplished” on Jan. 6, 2021, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on six criminal counts.
William R. Dunfee, 58, of Frazeysburg, Ohio, entered not-guilty pleas to all charges at an arraignment hearing on Feb. 9 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather. His case will be before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton for a status hearing in Washington on Feb. 24.
Dunfee, pastor of New Beginnings Ministries in Warsaw, Ohio, is charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors: civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, and an act of physical violence in a restricted building or grounds.
Dunfee is free on personal recognizance, pending trial.
The pastor was first arrested on a criminal complaint on Oct. 5, 2022, just weeks after Oath Keepers defense attorney Brad Geyer identified him and dozens of other alleged members of the Salt and Light Brigade and accused them of committing the criminal acts ascribed by federal prosecutors to the Oath Keepers.
The Salt and Light Brigade, founded by coach Dave Daubenmire as part of his Pass the Salt Ministries, had as many as 130 people in Washington on Jan. 6.
Geyer filed a motion on Sept. 12, 2022, identifying dozens of people allegedly associated with the Salt and Light Brigade as among those who pushed past police on the East Plaza and moved up to the Columbus Doors entrance to the Capitol Rotunda.
Geyer said Salt and Light Brigade members engaged in a “stunning conspiracy” to attack the Capitol, but they had faced no charges at the time of Geyer’s motion. Several members and associates of the group claim to have worked in intelligence, including a former Green Beret with experience in “special operations, covert operations, psychological operations, undercover operations, [and] surveillance operations.” Others have claimed they have high-level government security clearances, he said.
Geyer sought to introduce information on the acts of the Salt and Light Brigade in his defense of Oath Keepers member Kenneth Harrelson, but U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta refused to allow it into evidence. Harrelson was acquitted of seditious conspiracy but found guilty of other Jan. 6 charges in November 2022.
According to the indictment, Dunfee obstructed, impeded, and interfered with law enforcement officers during the commission of a civil disorder.
The grand jury also determined that Dunfee impeded a proceeding before Congress—specifically, the certification of the Electoral College vote. That felony charge has become increasingly controversial, as some defense attorneys argued that there is no role in the law for Congress to certify election results. What took place in the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 was merely a ceremonial tallying of votes certified at the state level, they say.
Incited Crowd Into ‘Taking Our House’
According to federal charging documents, Dunfee stood in a raised flower bed on the East Plaza on the afternoon of Jan. 6.
“This election has been stolen right out from underneath of our noses, and it is time for the American people to rise up,” Dunfee said, according to video evidence. “Rise up. Rise up. Today is the day in which … these elected officials realize that we are no longer playing games.
“We will stand up for our country. We are standing up for our freedoms. We are standing up for our president. And today is the day these elected officials, these senators, and these congressmen understand that we are not going to allow this to continue any longer.”
While not advocating the kind of violence and destruction seen in the summer of 2020 across the United States, Dunfee told the crowd that elected officials “need to fear us.”
“Mister police officers, we want you to understand something,” Dunfee said through a bullhorn. “We want you to understand something. We want Donald Trump, and if Donald Trump is not coming, we are taking our house. We are taking our house.”
Just before 2 p.m., prosecutors contend, Dunfee turned and placed his back against and pushed through the metal police barricade. He is seen on video with his arms raised, walking with the crowd toward the Rotunda steps.
At the top of the steps in front of the massive bronze Columbus Doors, Dunfee was sprayed with pepper spray by police. Just before 3 p.m., a group of men exiting the Capitol said: “We did it. We shut ’em all down. We did our job.”
Dunfee replied, “Hallelujah,” according to prosecutors. And a short time later he told the crowd, “Mission accomplished.”