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Two Bay Area Men Sentenced to Multiple Years in Prison for Plot to Destroy California Democratic Party Headquarters

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a balding white man wearing sunglasses and a camo-colored sleeveless shirt sits in the driver's seat of a DeLorean with the door up. A tattoo resembling a Nazi eagle can be seen on his arm.
Ian Rogers sits at the wheel of his DeLorean in a Facebook photo that went viral after his arrest in 2021. The photo shows his tattoo resembling a Nazi eagle. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Updated 8 p.m. Wednesday 

The two men who plotted to bomb the headquarters of the California Democratic Party, spurred by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud, were sentenced to federal prison Wednesday.

Ian Benjamin Rogers, of Napa, was sentenced to nine years and three years of supervision after he is released. Jarrod Copeland, of Vallejo, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years. He also has three years of supervision after he is released. Both men were forbidden to contact each other.

Rogers and Copeland worked together at Rogers’ auto repair shop in downtown Napa. After Joe Biden was elected president in 2020, Rogers and Copeland discussed attacking Democrats in a series of text messages. They targeted the party headquarters in Sacramento, just blocks from the state Capitol.

According to court records, the following exchange occurred after Rogers sent Copeland a link to the building’s location:

Rogers: sent link to the address of the California Democratic Party office…
Copeland: Right next to CHP
Copeland: gotta be cautious
Rogers: Only takes 3 minutes
Rogers: Take a brick break a window pour gas in and light

The pair settled on Jan. 20, 2021, the date of Biden’s inauguration, but they didn’t get to launch their plan: The Napa County Sheriff’s Office raided Rogers’ business and home on Jan. 15, 2021. Officers found a cache of more than 50 weapons, including pipe bombs and illegally modified firearms. Rogers, 47, was arrested.

Prior to his arrest, Rogers owned the now-defunct British Auto Repair and often exercised at a local gym with the 39-year-old Copeland, who was taken into custody in July 2021. Both men were charged with conspiracy to destroy by fire or explosive a building used in interstate commerce. Copeland faced an additional charge of destruction of records in official proceedings for deleting Rogers’ text messages from his phone, according to court records. Both still face state charges.

Rogers and Copeland, who have been incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, appeared in person in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Family and friends were there to support them.

The sentencing decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer reflects a heightened vigilance around domestic extremism amid repeated warnings of violence from the Department of Homeland Security. In November, Homeland Security issued a bulletin about the “persistent and lethal threat” in the United States, citing, among other incidents, the vicious attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in October.

“Several recent attacks, plots, and threats of violence demonstrate the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the United States,” the bulletin read.

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Rogers and Copeland’s case is part of a surge in domestic extremism activity the FBI is investigating in Northern California and throughout the nation. Federal law defines domestic terrorism as “acts dangerous to human life” that violate state or federal criminal law, and appear to be an attempt to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion” or “affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”

Since the spring of 2020, the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic extremists has more than doubled, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. And just over a year after hundreds of people were arrested after storming the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the certification of the presidential election, the DOJ announced it was creating a special unit to address “the threat posed by domestic extremism.”

Rogers pleaded guilty in May 2022 to conspiring to use explosives or fire to destroy the John L. Burton Democratic Headquarters, and for possessing an explosive device and a machine gun. In September, Breyer refused to approve the plea agreement for Rogers, citing an apparent lack of remorse. The judge asked federal prosecutors to justify why they thought a sentence of seven to nine years in prison would be appropriate, “especially in light of the defendant’s statements, which to the court suggests that he continues to be a substantial danger to the community.”

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Breyer also ordered a psychiatric evaluation to assess the level of threat Rogers poses to the public. The report is confidential, but Rogers’ attorney Colin Cooper said the evaluator concluded his client was at low risk for reoffending.

In October, Rogers submitted a handwritten letter to Breyer. “I was wrong to think about causing damage to any building or anyone. And, I think about that every day,” he wrote.

Rogers also said he struggled with substance abuse and was duped by the former president’s lies.

“At the time, I believed the election was stolen,” he wrote. “At the time, I believed things said by the Trump administration. At the time, I was in a dark place in my life and I was abusing alcohol and acting out, in part, because of it.”

In court, Rogers blamed alcohol abuse for warping his judgment, and said he would regret possessing machine guns and pipe bombs for the rest of his life.

“I am sorry for all these things I said, but I can assure you I never seriously meant them in any way,” he told the court. “They were just dumb, stupid, drunken thoughts, and I regret saying them all.”

Rogers also apologized to family members in the courtroom, including his wife and two sons. “I let you down,” he said as his voice cracked. “I hope you can forgive me.”

Breyer told Rogers he had to believe that alcoholism was the reason someone with no previous criminal record would threaten to harm political opponents. Breyer added that he understood that Rogers had serious disagreements with the way the government is operated.

“And you're not wrong to have those views," he said. "You are entitled to have those views. You are entitled to it, because you are an American living in this society.

"What you’re not entitled to is to violate the law and to threaten the existence of the government and its institutions.”

Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party, read a victim impact statement. He said employees and volunteers suffered emotional and mental harm.

“Dedicated folks who work at the party headquarters expressed concern about their own safety, fearing that individuals associated with the defendants or those who shared the defendants’ political views and happened to see the news would follow through with the defendants’ plans,” Hicks said.  

Copeland apologized to the party in his statement, and said he regretted causing fear. He stopped reading several times to fight back tears. “I’m truly ashamed of myself,” he said. “I ask for your forgiveness.”

As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed that Rogers may serve his federal sentence concurrently with a potential state sentence. The Napa County district attorney has charged Rogers with 28 felony counts, including conspiracy and possession of illegal weapons. If the case goes to trial, Rogers faces a statutory maximum of 45 years in prison.

That state case is expected to move forward now that Rogers has been sentenced in federal court. A hearing at the Napa County Superior Court is scheduled for Friday.

KQED’s Alex Hall contributed to this report.

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