Oath Keepers’ Rhodes guilty of Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted Tuesday of incendiary conspiracy for a violent plot to overturn the election of President Joe Biden. give the Justice Department a major victory in the mass prosecution of the January 6, 2021 uprising.

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

Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. A co-defendant — Kelly Meggs, who headed the anti-government group’s Florida chapter — was also convicted of seditious conspiracy, while three other associates were acquitted of that charge. Jurors found all five defendants guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding: Congress’s certification of Biden’s election victory.

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

Rhodes and Meggs are the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty at trial of seditious conspiracy — a rarely used Civil War-era charge that can be difficult to prove. The crime requires up to 20 years behind bars.

It could encourage investigators whose work has expanded beyond those attacking the Capitol to focus on others associated with Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed an experienced prosecutor, Jack Smith to serve as special counsel to oversee key aspects of an investigation into efforts to undermine the election, as well as a separate investigation into the holding of classified documents at Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida.

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

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

Using dozens of coded messages, recordings and surveillance videos, prosecutors alleged that shortly after the 2020 elections, Rhodes began preparing an armed uprising to stop the transfer of presidential power.

During seven weeks of testimony, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his followers to fight to defend Trump, discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and warned that the Oath Keepers might have to “rise up” to defeat Biden if Trump didn’t. t act.

Defense attorneys accused prosecutors of twisting their clients’ words and insisted that the Oath Keepers only came to Washington to provide security for figures like Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally. The defense focused heavily on trying to show that Rhodes’s rhetoric was just a blunder and that the Oath Keepers had no plan to attack the Capitol before January 6.

Rhodes plans to appeal, attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes lawyer, Ed Tarpley, described the verdict as a “mixed bag”, adding: “This is not a total victory for the government by any means.”

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

In addition to Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, and Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper, was on trial; Thomas Caldwell, a retired Virginia Navy intelligence officer; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group.

Caldwell was convicted on two counts and acquitted on three other counts, including seditious conspiracy. His lawyer, 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 the two convictions.

Jury selection for a second group of Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy is scheduled to begin next week. Several members of the Proud Boys, including former National President Enrique Tarrio, are also scheduled to go on trial in December for sedition.

In an extraordinary move, Rhodes took the stand to tell the jurors that there was no plan to attack the Capitol and to insist that his followers who entered the building went rogue.

Rhodes testified that he had no idea his followers would join the mob and stormed the Capitol saying he was upset after finding out some did. Rhodes said they were acting “stupid” and beyond their mission for the day.

Prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to push through with their plan to stop the transfer of power and sprang into action when mobs began storming the Capitol. The attack on the Capitol was a “means to an end” for the Oath Keepers, assistant attorney Kathryn Rakoczy told jurors in her closing argument.

Jurors learned how Rhodes spent thousands of dollars on an AR platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other equipment en route to Washington prior to the riot. They looked at surveillance footage from the Virginia hotel where some Oath Keepers had stashed weapons for “rapid response force” teams. The weapons were never deployed.

On January 6, Oath Keepers in combat gear were seen on camera making their way through the crowd toward the Capitol. Rhodes stayed out like a “general inspecting 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 said.

The trial revealed new details about Rhodes’ attempts to pressure Trump into fighting to stay in the White House in the weeks leading up to January 6. Shortly after the election, in a group chat with Stone called “FOS” or “Friends of Stone,” Rhodes wrote, “So you’re going to step forward and push Trump to FINALLY take decisive action?”

Another man testified that after the riot, Rhodes tried to persuade him to relay a message to Trump urging the president not to give up his fight to retain power. The middleman — 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 relaying the message to Trump.

“If he doesn’t do the right thing and just get himself removed illegally, then we should have brought guns,” Rhodes said at that meeting, according to a recording played to jurors. “We should have fixed it then and there. I’d hang Pelosi from the lamppost,” Rhodes said, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Three other Oath Keepers previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. The last time the Justice Department obtained such a conviction during the trial was in 1995 when prosecuting Islamist militants who plotted to bomb monuments in New York.

___

For full coverage of the uprising in the Capitol, visit

More about Donald Trump-related investigations:

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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