Despite the request for sealing, the filing appeared in the court’s public record Monday afternoon, just hours before a hearing scheduled for Tuesday on whether Schaffer should continue to be detained. At the request of both parties, Howell postponed the hearing until April 21.
The five-page presentation describes “good faith” efforts to reach an agreement that would include Schaffer’s cooperation. Although Schaffer’s involvement with the broader Oath Keepers organization is unclear, the US attorney in Washington has accused a dozen members of the pro-Trump anti-government paramilitary group of conspiring to stop congressional certification of the 2020 elections.
“Based on these informational interviews, the parties are currently engaged in good faith plea negotiations, including discussions on the possibility of entering into a cooperative plea agreement aimed at resolving the matter without prosecution,” wrote the Assistant United States Attorneys Ahmed Baset and Louis Manzo. “Among the terms of the guilty plea contemplated after the acceptance of a guilty plea are the release of the accused pending sentencing.”
After a hearing last month, Washington-based Magistrate Zia Faruqui ordered that Schaffer be detained pending trial. However, Schaffer’s attorneys appealed that decision to Howell. The government was prepared to respond to that effort, but requested a two-week delay while both sides work towards a cooperation agreement.
Prosecutors indicated in Monday’s filing that they would swiftly indict Schaffer if his plea negotiations failed within that time frame. They also indicated that revealing the existence of these plea arguments could jeopardize their criminal investigations.
“If alerted to this information, the objectives of the investigation on which the accused may be providing information could be immediately motivated to flee prosecution, destroy or conceal incriminating evidence, modify their operational tactics to avoid detection in the future, attempt to influence or intimidate potential witnesses, and otherwise take steps to undermine the investigation and prevent future prosecutions, ”Baset wrote. “Consequently, these events present an extraordinary situation and an imperative governmental interest that justify the closure of this file related to this investigation that is being presented at this time.