An auto shop owner from Napa pleaded not guilty Friday to more than two dozen state counts alleging he had amassed a cache of illegal weapons and explosives while text messaging about “going to war” in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Ian Rogers, 44, faces 28 counts, including possessing five pipe bombs and as many as eight illegal weapons seized during a state and federal raid on his British Auto Repair business and home in Napa.
Besides illegal weapons, authorities seized Nazi related material, a “white privilege” card and bomb-making manuals during the raid earlier this month.
In a separate federal complaint, FBI investigators pointed to a decal they found as suggesting Rogers had ties to an extremist group known as the Three Percenters. But Rogers told authorities he was only part of a survivalist offshoot of the group.
Following the raid, authorities recovered text messages they say show Rogers talked about “going to war” to keep Donald Trump, the 45th president, in office.
“I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn’t I will’’ read one message Rogers allegedly sent the week after the Capitol attack. “Let’s see what happens, if nothing does I’m going to war….”
At the hearing on Friday, prosecutors told Napa County Superior Court Judge Elia Ortiz that Rogers talked about targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Facebook and even state Gov. Gavin Newsom and posed an “incredible, outrageous danger to public safety.”
But Rogers’ attorney, Jess Raphael, argued that his client was a law abiding, longstanding local business owner who happened to be prone to misguided bluster in support of Trump.
“He does not belong to any of these groups, he is not of a violent disposition,” Raphael said, “but when he drinks, he spouts off.’’
The attorney said most of the seized weapons were legal and that Rogers used the bombs for entertainment, keeping them locked away in a safe. “He says when he goes on camping trips, sometimes he explodes these things.”
He urged the judge to lower bail so Rogers could keep his repair business going and support his family.
Raphael also cited documents to the court that he says show the FBI was tipped back in September about the cache of bombs and guns from a disgruntled former shop employee, but waited months to act after initially finding no immediate danger.
“Why was he not dangerous back in October, or in September?” Raphael said in an interview after the court hearing. “But now, he’s so dangerous that they have to keep him in custody on millions of dollars in bail? It doesn’t make sense.”
Prosecutors responded that the investigation was delayed when Rogers sold his home and moved to another location in Napa. After Friday’s hearing, the judge suggested the law could allow her to deny bail altogether, but cut the sum from $5 million to $1.5 million, while ordering that Rogers surrender his passport, submit to electronic monitoring and alcohol testing.
Rogers also faces separate federal weapons charges.