Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, found guilty of sedition in US Capitol attack plot

Founder of Oath Keepers: Two leaders of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, including the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes, were found guilty of sedition on Tuesday in the highest-profile case stemming from the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Rhodes, 57, and Kelly Meggs, 53, the leader of the militia’s Florida chapter, were convicted by a federal jury of the rarely pursued charge of seditious conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Three other members of the Oath Keepers, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, who were charged with sedition, were acquitted by the 12-person jury but convicted of lesser offenses, such as obstructing an official proceeding.

Rhodes, a former soldier and Yale law graduate who wore an eyepatch, and four other group members were accused of conspiring to keep Trump in power and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won.

During the nearly two-week trial in Washington, D.C., prosecutors said that the Oath Keepers “thought up a plan for an armed rebellion” and were planning to fight against the U.S. government by force.

 Founder of Oath Keepers

There have been hundreds of arrests of Trump supporters for their roles in the attack on Congress, but the charges against them are not as serious as the ones against Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers. The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict in the case, which the defendants characterized as a political trial carried out by the Biden administration against Trump supporters, who announced plans to run for the White House again in 2024.

This month, US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Trump’s own efforts to overturn the election result, as well as his supporters, attacks on Congress. The special counsel will also take over the Justice Department’s investigation into a cache of classified government documents seized in an August FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

A not-guilty verdict on all five defendants’ sedition charges would have been a setback for the Department of Justice, which plans to try members of the Proud Boys, another right-wing extremist group, on the exact charges.

Democratic Congressman David Cicilline welcomed the verdict calling it a “key victory for democracy and the rule of law.” Edward Tarpley, an attorney for Rhodes, said he was “disappointed.”

“There was no evidence presented indicating a plan to attack the Capitol,” Tarpley told reporters. During the trial, prosecutors accused the Oath Keepers of stockpiling weapons in a hotel near Washington and joining a crowd that stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s election victory. Prosecutors played videos of the attack carried out by dozens of members of the group dressed in military-style combat gear.

Prosecutors also showed the jury text messages between Rhodes and his followers calling for action if Trump did not act to prevent Biden’s confirmation as the next president. Rhodes did not personally enter the Capitol but directed his followers like a battlefield general, prosecutors said. During the trial, Rhodes testified that his group had no plans to attack the congressional complex and that they were only in town to provide security at rallies.

“It was not part of our mission for that day to enter the Capitol for any reason,” Rhodes said. In military jargon, he admitted that several Oath Keepers went “off-mission” and entered the building. He said Meggs, the Florida chapter head, was “an idiot” for taking his people inside. “I think that going into the Capitol was a bad idea. It made it possible for us to be hurt politically. Here is where we are, “Rhodes said to the judge.

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