Ian Rogers joined the hearing at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco via video feed from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin where he was incarcerated.
Rogers pled guilty to conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosives, possession of unregistered destructive devices and possession of a machine gun.
Under the plea deal Rogers agreed to Friday, he faces seven to nine years in prison, followed by a three-year term of supervised release and $250,000 in fines.
Before his 2021 arrest, Rogers owned British Auto Repair of the Napa Valley, and was known as a larger-than-life figure in the nearby business community. He was often seen lifting weights at a local gym with his friend and former employee Jarrod Copeland, who is a co-defendant in the case. Rogers posted pictures of himself on social media dressed in fatigues, and photos of his fast cars and his many guns, according to people who knew him.
But others saw a more dangerous side to Rogers. In the fall of 2020, an anonymous tipster alerted the FBI and local law enforcement that Rogers was heavily armed and had threatened to kill someone. This person also said that Rogers was an outspoken supporter of then-president Donald Trump and might follow through on his threats if Trump lost the election.
Rogers was arrested Jan. 15, 2021, after a joint task force found five pipe bombs in a safe at his auto shop and materials to build more explosives. Detectives also searched Roger’s Napa home and RV. All together they found roughly 50 guns in his possession, including machine guns and several guns that had been illegally modified to fire automatically.
Authorities also seized Rogers' cellphone and discovered encrypted messages exchanged with his friend and former employee, Jarrod Copeland, discussing how to destroy the Democratic Party’s state headquarters.
Copeland was taken into custody in Sacramento six months after Rogers. The 38-year-old pled no contest to conspiracy and destruction of records in an official proceeding, but the court has not yet set a sentencing date.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California issued a statement Friday describing the facts supporting charges against Rogers and Copeland for conspiring to destroy the California State Democratic Party headquarters.
“Rogers admitted in his plea agreement to viewing the building on the internet and sending a map of the location to Copeland,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds wrote. “The men also admitted to discussing the building’s proximity to a fire department and certain law enforcement in devising their plan, using that information to refine the method of attack to ensure they caused the greatest damage to the building while allowing their escape without detection.”
Before accepting Rogers' plea agreement, Judge Charles R. Breyer asked Rogers whether he believed that the government could prove his guilt based on the evidence gathered.
Rogers hesitated, then answered, “I can see how a jury would believe what the government is saying.”
He later added that the plea agreement “doesn’t say anything about when I said those things, but I agree that I did communicate with my friend about that.”
Rogers and Copeland have insisted their online discussion to blow up the building in Sacramento was just drunken banter and that they never intended to hurt anyone.
Rogers had asked to read a statement at Friday's hearing, according to his attorney Collin Cooper, but the judge denied the request.
“He has accepted responsibility for his actions,” Cooper said, “and is seeking a chance for redemption and a chance, once he pays this penalty, to move forward with his life.”
The attorney expects Rogers will be given an opportunity to speak at his sentencing on September 30.
As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed that Rogers may serve his federal sentence concurrently with a potential state sentence.
The District Attorney of Napa County charged Rogers with 28 felony counts, including conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons. That case is expected to move forward after Rogers receives his federal sentence.
Combatting a national rise in domestic violent extremist activity has become one of the FBI's top priorities, according to Jon Blair, the assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism at the FBI’s San Francisco field office, which investigated Rogers and Copeland.
"Anti-government anti-authority extremism is our highest-ranked threat right now, very closely followed by racially motivated violent extremists," Blair told KQED in a recent interview.
KQED's Alex Hall contributed to this report.
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