SARASOTA COUNTY – An Englewood man belonging to the Florida Chapter of the Oath Keepers organization who was charged with storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 says he is struggling to cope with jail and has asked a federal judge to reconsider a ruling that would keep him there until the start of his trial.
Graydon Young, 54, has been in jail following his arrest on Feb. 15.
Young “had been duped by an organization he didn’t fully understand,” defense attorney Robert Foley argued in court.
In a motion filed earlier this week, Young’s attorney said his client should be released because of his “strong character” and the “psychological burdens” he has endured since being jailed. Young is described by his attorney as a “family man” who has never been jailed before.
“The psychological burdens of being detained pending trial are very real for Mr. Young,” defense attorney Robert Foley wrote in his motion. “Since he has no previous experience with the criminal justice system, being detained is taking an extremely high toll on his mental well-being.”
On Jan. 6, Young and nine other members of the Florida Chapter of the Oath Keepers, a large but loosely organized far-right militia, “planned with each other, and with others known and unknown, to forcibly enter the Capitol,” according to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court. The effort was meant to “stop, delay and hinder the Congressional proceedings occurring that day.”
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The group, which includes his sister Laura Steele, “prepared themselves for battle before heading to the Capitol by equipping themselves with communication devices and donning reinforced vests, helmets and goggles,” prosecutors said.
All nine face charges for conspiring to obstruct the U.S. Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results by storming the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Young, who served seven years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, is also being charged with destroying evidence. He deleted his social media accounts – where he posted photos and videos of the siege – in the days following the Capitol riot.
Included in the indictment were photographs, videos and social media posts that showed Young and others outside and inside the Capitol. In one photo, Young is seen in the Capitol Rotunda. He is wearing a military-style vest and helmet.
Foley argued that because government lacks sufficient evidence to hold him in jail, the initial bond ruling should be overturned, according to a motion filed this week. According to the motion, Young was not aware that the FBI had opened an active investigation into him at the time he deleted his Facebook posts.
Young is a business owner and has lived in Sarasota County since 2006, documents show.
He owns and operates the Young Children’s Academy, a child care center in Englewood, with his wife, Stephanie. He previously lived in Bradenton. They have two adult children.
Young is also a member of the Suncoast Reef Rovers, a dive club dedicated to caring for the reefs and shorelines of Florida, and the Englewood Dive Club. He volunteered at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota and helped clean shark tanks.
“Prior to being detained, Mr. Young was a mentally strong and stable person with no history of mental disorders,” Foley wrote in his motion.
Foley added: “Because he is such a strong family man, locking him up away from his wife and children with the prospect of an extremely long period of time before trial is even scheduled is causing potentially irreparable psychological and emotional damage to Mr. Young.”
According to indictment documents, Young submitted his application to join the Florida Chapter of the Oath Keepers on Dec. 3 and recruited his sister, 52-year-old Steele of Thomasville, N.C., to sign on to the organization the following month so she could join him. Steele was released from jail this week and placed on house arrest until her trial.
Of Young, Foley wrote: “He is a person who protects and helps vulnerable people; not a person who attacks, destroys, and injures, as the United States would have the Court believe. Because the United States cannot point to any concrete evidence indicating Mr. Young poses a danger to any person or the community, there are conditions that can be fashioned, if the Court finds them necessary, to assure the safety of any other person and the community.”
Young’s actions on Jan. 6 were “inconceivable,” federal Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson ruled in February, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“I’ve been doing this for over 40 years, but never have I ever seen anything like this,” Wilson said. “I simply cannot imagine people planning to do this. They might get together and talk about it, just blowing smoke, but in this case they actually went through with it. So if I cannot conceive of someone doing this, what other inconceivable things could they do?”
Timothy Fanning covers Sarasota government for the Herald-Tribune. Reach Timothy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @timothyjfanning. Support the Herald-Tribune by subscribing today.