Four men who work for law enforcement and military agencies in New York and New Jersey, and whose names appeared on a list of members of the antigovernment extremist group the Oath Keepers will not be fired. One of the men was a police officer investigating the group, his then-commanding officer confirmed.
Last year Gothamist investigated local ties to the Oath Keepers based on membership rolls obtained by an anonymous hacker, and identified dozens of police officers, jail and prison guards, and first responders from the two states.
At the time, officials pledged to make sure there were not extremists in their ranks and vowed investigations. But more than a year later, four people confirmed to have been listed in the logs and identified in media outlets have not been disciplined, officials at the agencies said. They are:
Stuart Wohl, an NYPD sergeant.
A police spokesperson said that “after an internal investigation it was determined there was no misconduct.”
Wohl declined to comment, but his now retired supervisor, Anthony Raganella, said that Wohl actually signed up for the Oath Keepers as a work assignment. Raganella said he asked Wohl to use publicly available information to review ideologies and tactics of certain extremist groups who could cause violence, like at protests. Wohl then shared that information with his colleagues.
“A lot of times the cops just don’t know who they’re dealing with,” Raganella told Gothamist. “We wanted to know what groups were out there that were actually engaged in criminal conduct or violence and use open source information to help us find that out.”
Wohl is assigned to the NYPD’s Firearms and Tactics Training Unit.
“He really had the public’s best interest at heart and he wanted to make sure everything was done fairly, and we were going to try to do what we could to give police officers as much knowledge as possible,” Raganella told Gothamist. He called Wohl “one of my best workers.”
Aniello Napoli, an NYPD officer assigned to the Strategic Response Group, which was deployed to quell protests like those after the murder of George Floyd.
An NYPD spokesperson said in a statement that “after an internal investigation it was determined that there was no misconduct.” A person who answered a call to Napoli’s number hung up when asked for comment.
Ed Keyrouze, the civilian administrator for the New York Guard, a 300-member state volunteer force that serves under the direction of the governor to assist the militarized New York National Guard during emergencies.
Keyrouze, who was listed in the membership logs as promising to recruit guardsmen for the Oath Keepers, was a colonel and chief of staff for the New York Guard when his association was first revealed.
Eric Durr, director of public affairs for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said in an email that after the revelations last year, the division began an investigation into Keyrouze and “found that Mr. Keyrouze had no understanding of the Oath Keepers’ agenda and found no evidence that he used state time or government resources to conduct Oath Keepers activities or any other political activity.” He also said the investigation determined that Keyrouze “severed ties with the organization in 2017, and was not involved in any way in the events at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”
“The matter is considered closed,” he said.
Keyrouze did not respond to an email last week, but he previously told Gothamist that he had signed up for a one-year membership “several years back” and neither participated in activities nor renewed.
Craig Iacouzzi, a detective at the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office in Jersey City.
Last year, Iacouzzi confirmed to Gothamist that he signed up online for the Oath Keepers, but said he only did so for an “email subscription” to receive “current events and a different take on mainstream media perspective” and that he “never met anybody or spoke to anybody” from the organization.
At the time, a spokesperson for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office said it was concerned and investigating the incident.
Last week, spokesperson Caitlin Mota told Gothamist that the investigation into Iacouzzi, who is still employed at the office, was complete.
“As this is a personnel matter, the findings are confidential and we cannot comment any further,” she said in an email.
The Oath Keepers membership data, which is several years old, was provided to a nonprofit journalism group called Distributed Denial of Secrets and posted online. The information does not indicate the extent of each members’ involvement with the group. The Anti-Defamation League recently used the information to identify more than 600 elected officials, law enforcement officers, military members, and first responders nationwide who were members.
Often referred to as a militia, the Oath Keepers recruit people with military and law enforcement backgrounds. The group is under renewed scrutiny this month as members are on trial for sedition for allegedly conspiring to commit armed rebellion on Jan. 6, 2021.
Across the country, public entities have a variety of policies and labor agreements related to its employees involvement in certain groups. New Jersey does not have a law explicitly forbidding law enforcement or other public officials from being involved in extremist groups, including those with white supremacist ties. And while NYPD rules prohibit officers from knowingly associating with organizations “reasonably believed” to be engaged in criminal activities, enforcing such rules in a rapidly changing extremist landscape can be difficult, experts said.
Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said it’s “disheartening” that in the wake of the leak “how little action has been taken” against those who supported an antigovernment group.
“You can't be loyal to a group that this week is on trial in DC for engaging in a conspiracy to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power and still faithfully execute [your work duties] — whether you're a member of law enforcement, member of the military, a first responder,” he said.
Even if those on the membership lists now disavow their connection to the group, “there's still a good chance that they hold antigovernment views,” Lewis said, and governmental agencies should not allow such people on their rolls. But public officials, he noted, have an inconsistent approach to radicals. “What if ISIS supporters were working in law enforcement or the military?” he asked.
When the Oath Keeper memberships were revealed by Gothamist, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie called on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to take action — particularly against Keyrouze, of the New York Guard. Myrie said last week that it’s “outrageous” that Keyrouze and the NYPD officers were not disciplined.
“How can my constituents feel safe knowing that the only people in our community with a literal license to kill might also subscribe to the belief that people who look like me shouldn’t exist?” he asked in a text message.