WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was found guilty Tuesday of seditious conspiracy to overthrow President Joe Biden’s election. It gave the Department of Justice a major victory in massive indictments over the Jan. 6, 2021 riots.
A jury in Washington, D.C., has ruled out Rhodes after three days of deliberations in a nearly two-month-long trial that showed a far-right extremist group’s desperate efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House. He was found guilty of sedition.
Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. A co-defendant, Kelly Meggs, who led the rebel group’s Florida branch, was also convicted of seditious conspiracy, and three other associates were acquitted. All were convicted of obstructing official proceedings. Congress has proven Biden’s election victory.
While the verdict is mixed, it is an important milestone for the Justice Department and likely paves the way for prosecutors to move full speed ahead in upcoming trials of other extremists accused of sedition.
Rhodes and Meggs are the first people to be convicted of a sedition conspiracy trial in nearly 30 years. Offenses require up to 20 years behind bars.
Investigators’ work may expand beyond those who attacked the Capitol to focus on others linked to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Merrick Garland recently named veteran prosecutor Jack Smith. To serve as special counsel overseeing key aspects of an investigation into an attempt to overthrow the election and a separate investigation into the retention of classified documents at Trump’s Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago.
After the ruling, Garland said the Justice Department was “committed to holding those criminally responsible for the attack on democracy on January 6, 2021 to account.”
“Democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power. By trying to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, the defendants have disrespected and trampled on the rule of law,” said the FBI Washington Field office representative. Assistant Director Steven M. D’Antuono said in an email. “This incident shows that force and violence are no match for our justice system.”
Using dozens of encrypted messages, recordings and surveillance videos, prosecutors have begun preparations for an armed rebellion to prevent the transfer of presidential powers to Rhodes shortly after the 2020 elections. I claimed.
Over seven weeks of testimony, jurors heard how Rhodes rallied his supporters to fight to defend Trump, debated the possibility of a “bloody” civil war, and asked if Trump had failed to do so. Warned that the Oathkeepers may need to “stand up in riot” to defeat Biden…do not act.
Defense attorneys accuse prosecutors of twisting the words of their clients, and the Oathkeepers came to Washington only to provide security for figures like longtime Trump ally Roger Stone The defense focused on showing that Rose’s rhetoric was just silly and that the Oathkeepers had no plans to attack the Capitol until January 6th. rice field.
Rhodes intends to appeal, defense attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes attorney, Ed Tarpley, described the ruling as a “mixed bag”, adding, “This is not a total victory for the government in any way or form.”
“We feel like we have filed a case that has shown through evidence and testimony that Mr Rose was not guilty of seditious conspiracy,” Tarpley said.
At trial alongside Rhodes of Granbury, Texas and Meggs, was another Florida oath keeper, Kenneth Harrelson. Thomas Caldwell, a retired naval intelligence officer from Virginia. Jessica Watkins, leader of an Ohio militia group.
Caldwell was convicted on two counts and acquitted on three other counts, including conspiracy to sedition. His attorney, David Fisher, called the verdict a “big win” for his client and a “big loss” for the Justice Department. He also said he would appeal the two convictions.
Jury selection for the second group of Oathkeepers facing sedition conspiracy charges is set to begin next week. He is scheduled to go on trial on sedition charges in December.
In an unusual move, Rhodes told jurors he had no plans to attack the Capitol, and stood up to claim that his followers who went inside the building had become rogues.
Rhodes testified that he did not expect his followers to join the mob After raiding the Capitol and learning that some had done so, he said he was upset. Rhodes said they were acting “ridiculous” and out of duty for the day.
Prosecutors said the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to advance their plan to block the transfer of power and took action when the mob began storming the Capitol. The attack on the Capitol was a “means to an end” for the Orthkeepers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Lacozy told jurors in closing arguments.
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A jury heard how Rhodes had spent thousands on AR platform rifles, magazines, mounts, sights, and other equipment on his way to Washington before the riots. I saw surveillance footage. There, some Oathkeepers hid weapons for their “rapid response force” teams. Weapons were not deployed.
On January 6, cameras were seen carrying the Oath Keepers on their shoulders through the crowd in combat uniforms into the Capitol. Rhodes stayed out like a “general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” prosecutors said. After the riot, Rhodes and the other Oathkeepers went to a restaurant in Olive Garden to celebrate, according to prosecutors.
Trial reveals new details about Rhodes’ efforts to pressure Trump to fight to stay in White House weeks until January 6th. Shortly after the election, in a group chat involving Stone called “FOS” or “Friends of Stone,” Rhodes wrote: ? ”
Another man testified that after the riots, Rhodes tried to persuade Trump to pass on a message urging the president not to give up the fight to stay in power. The man who told the jury there was a way – recorded the meeting with Rose and went to the FBI instead of passing the message on to Trump.
According to a recording played for the jury, Mr. Rhodes said at that meeting, “If he didn’t do the right thing and was only to be taken away illegally, he should have brought the rifle.” It should have been fixed on the spot. I would hang Pelosi from the lamppost,” Rhodes said, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Three other Oath Keepers have previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracies. But the last time the Justice Department won such a conviction in a trial was indicting Islamic extremists for plotting to bomb a New York City landmark in 1995.
For full coverage of the Capitol riots, please visit https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege.
More information on Donald Trump-related investigations: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump