The 17th person from New Jersey charged with being part of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is the Bergen County Oath Keepers leader who tried to downplay his activity that day when asked by federal investigators, officials say.

Oath Keepers is a radical group that believes the government has been taken over by a conspiracy to take rights away from Americans. It recruits many members with military and law enforcement backgrounds.

James Breheny, 61, of Little Ferry, traveled to Washington to attend the pro-Donald Trump rally that took place prior to the attack on the Capitol. He told investigators he was on the top of the Capitol stairs and was pushed inside by the surge of people entering the building, officials say.

Breheny told investigators he walked about 25 feet inside, stayed for two or three minutes and took a picture of the dome with his phone that he sent to a friend, according to the complaint. He claimed that he didn't know he could not enter because none of the police officers he passed stopped him, investigators said.

The complaint does not accuse Breheny of any violent acts inside the Capitol but it does argue that his involvement was more than he let on.

Breheny attended a meeting of the Oath Keepers in Pennsylvania on Dec. 21, 2020, with other "patriot groups" to plan for the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the complaint.

"This will be the day we get our comms on point wit multiple other patriot groups, share rally points, etc. This one is imporrants and I believe this is our last chance to organize before the show," authorities said Breheny wrote in a message to an Oath Keeper leader.

After getting a search warrant to check his phone, investigators found multiple pictures and a selfie taken just outside the East Rotunda doors of the U.S. Capitol, according to the complaint.  He also texted pictures to friends with messages such as "I breached the Capital (sic) door" and "We breached the door Baby."

Investigators said Breheny deleted a Facebook account under the alias "Seamus Evers." Before deleting the account, he wrote that people need to stand up and fight because they are losing by unfair tactics, officials said.

"They refuse to hear the cases that would allow our voices to be heard. So what other option do you have? We exhausted all legal channels. They refuse to investigate any of crimes or voter issues. Therefore the Government has become tyrannical. The People's Duty is to replace that government with one they agree with. I'm all ears. What's our options???," Breheny posted on the Facebook account, according to the complaint.

Breheny is charged with unlawfully entering the U.S. Capitol, disrupting government business, disrupting Congress and destroying evidence.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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