Rhodes of the Guardians of the Oath Guilty of the January 6 Seditious Plot

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for a violent plot to overthrow the election of President Joe Biden, giving the Department of Justice a major victory in its massive prosecution of the January 6, 2021 insurgency.

A Washington, D.C. jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in a nearly two-month trial that showcased the far-right group’s efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump down at all costs. to the White House.

Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. A co-defendant – Kelly Meggs, who led the anti-government group’s Florida chapter – was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy, while three other associates were cleared of the charge. Jurors found the five defendants guilty of obstructing due process: Congressional certification of Biden’s election victory.

The verdict, while a mixed one, marks an important milestone for the Justice Department and is likely to pave the way for prosecutors to press ahead with full steam ahead in the upcoming trials of other extremists charged with sedition.

Rhodes and Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be convicted in a riotous conspiracy trial — a charge rarely used in the Civil War era that can be difficult to prove. The offense calls for up to 20 years behind bars.

That could embolden investigators, whose work has expanded beyond those who attacked the Capitol to focus on others tied to Trump’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election. United States Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed veteran prosecutor Jack Smith to serve as special counsel to oversee key aspects of an investigation into efforts to overturn the election as well as a separate investigation into the retention of classified documents at Trump’s estate in Florida, Mar-a-Lago.

Garland said after the verdict that the Justice Department “is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021.”

“Democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power. By attempting to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, the defendants flouted and flouted the rule of law,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Deputy Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, in an emailed statement. “This case shows that force and violence are no match for our country’s justice system.

Using dozens of encrypted messages, recordings and surveillance videos, prosecutors argued that Rhodes began shortly after the 2020 election to plot an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of presidential power.

During seven weeks of testimony, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his supporters to fight to defend Trump, discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and warned that oath keepers may have to “stand up in insurrection” to defeat Biden if Trump does not. don’t act.

Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of misrepresenting what their clients said and insisted that oath keepers only come to Washington to provide security for figures such as Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally. The defense focused heavily on seeking to show that Rhodes’ rhetoric was all bluster and that the Oath Keepers had no plans until January 6 to attack the Capitol.

Rhodes intends to appeal, defense attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes lawyer, Ed Tarpley, described the verdict as a “mixed bag”, adding: “It is by no means a complete victory for the government.”

“We feel we have presented a case which has shown by evidence and testimony that Mr. Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy,” Tarpley said.

On trial alongside Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and Meggs were Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oathkeeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led a militia group in Ohio.

Caldwell was convicted of two counts and acquitted of three others, including seditious conspiracy. His attorney, David Fischer, called the verdict a “major victory” for his client and a “major defeat” for the Justice Department. He also said he would appeal both convictions.

Jury selection for a second group of oath keepers facing seditious conspiracy charges is expected to begin next week. Several members of the Proud Boys, including former national president Enrique Tarrio, are also to be tried for sedition in December.

In an extraordinary move, Rhodes took to the stage to tell jurors there were no plans to attack the Capitol and insisted that his supporters who went inside the building had gone rogue.

Rhodes testified he had no idea his supporters were going to join the crowd and stormed the Capitol and said he was upset after finding out some had done it. Rhodes said they were acting “stupid” and off-duty for the day.

Prosecutors said oath keepers saw an opportunity to advance their plot to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when mobs began storming the Capitol. The Capitol attack was a “means to an end” for the oath keepers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy told jurors in her closing argument.

Jurors heard how Rhodes spent thousands of dollars on an AR platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other gear en route to Washington before the riot. They watched surveillance footage of the Virginia Hotel where some oath keepers hid weapons for ‘quick reaction force’ teams, prosecutors say, ready to smuggle weapons into the city quickly if needed . The weapons were never deployed.

On January 6, oath keepers in combat gear were seen on camera pushing their way through the crowds and into the Capitol. Rhodes remained on the outside like a “general watching over his troops on the battlefield”, a prosecutor said. After the riot, Rhodes and other oath keepers went to an Olive Garden restaurant to celebrate, prosecutors say.

The trial revealed new details on Rhodes’ efforts to pressure Trump to fight to stay in White House in the weeks leading up to January 6. Shortly after the election, in a panel discussion that included Stone called “FOS” or “Friends of Stone,” Rhodes wrote, “So are you going to step in and push Trump to FINALLY take decisive action?”

Another man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to persuade him to deliver a message to Trump urging the president not to give up his fight to retain power. The go-between – a man who told jurors he had an indirect way to reach the president – taped his meeting with Rhodes and went to the FBI instead of delivering the message to Trump.

“If he doesn’t do the right thing and lets himself be unlawfully deported, we should have brought guns,” Rhodes said at that meeting, according to a recording played for the jurors. “We should have fixed it on the spot. I would hang (expletive) Pelosi from the lamp post,” Rhodes said, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Three other Oath Keepers have previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. The last time the Justice Department obtained such a conviction at trial, however, was in pursuit in 1995 of Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York landmarks.


For full coverage of the Capitol Riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege

Learn more about the investigations related to Donald Trump: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *