Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes, 10 Others Charged With Seditious Conspiracy in Jan. 6 Probe

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The founder of a right-wing militia group was arrested in Texas in connection with his role in last year’s Capitol attack

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The case marks the first time the Justice Department has filed treason charges related to the attack, and a few days later Attorney General Merrick Garland promised that prosecutors would charge anyone responsible “at any level” for the Capitol riot, not just anyone. That only on those who violate the building. , Mr Rhodes did not go into the building that day, but prosecutors said he directed his followers there, triggering the violence.

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His lawyer, Jonathan Moseley, said he was on the phone with Mr Rhodes on Thursday afternoon when agents came to his client’s home in Granbury, Texas.

Prosecutors said 10 others were linked to the oath takers. Counting the latest indictment, more than three dozen members or allies of the Oath Keepers and another far-right group, the Proud Boys, have been arrested in connection with the attack on the Capitol. The Justice Department has charged more than 725 people so far in the attack, in which supporters of former President Donald Trump overwhelmed police officers and flooded the building.

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Oath Keepers, created by Mr. Rhodes in 2009, attracted many members with military or law-enforcement backgrounds as the group drew attention from its involvement in confrontations of Western ranchers and miners with federal agencies over land use. The group believes that members’ loyalty is to the US Constitution and not to any local or federal leader. Mr. Rhodes said in 2013 that he wanted to see “the resumption of the militia in this country”.

The seditious-conspiracy charges against Mr. Rhodes and 10 others are separate from the conspiracy charges leveled against dozens of other defendants in the January 6 investigation. The seditious conspiracy is a seldom used law in which very harsh punishments are imposed against those plotting to overthrow the government, to circumvent its laws, or to confiscate its property.

A conviction is not contingent upon the success of the conspiracy and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, although defendants rarely receive this. Mr. Rhodes has also been charged with a number of other counts related to obstructing an official proceeding, which could factor into any sentencing decisions if found guilty.

Prosecutors say Mr Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers used encrypted communications apps on January 6 to coordinate a range of their actions, including organizing teams and collecting weapons in the Washington area.

Once protesters breached the Capitol perimeter, prosecutors say, members of the Oath Keepers marched into the Capitol as a team in a single-file military tactic “stack formation.” According to the indictment, the group then split, with half the oath-keepers heading to the US Senate chamber, while the other half headed to the House of Representatives at the other end of the Capitol building.

Prosecutors allege that the group leading the House was looking for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was evicted from the chamber by her security detail when the breach began. The indictment states that oath-takers who tried to breach the Senate’s side were scuttled by law enforcement.

Another group of sworn-in prosecutors called “Stack Two” breached the Capitol about 45 minutes later, he said, and was working with police trying to protect the Capitol Rotunda in the center of the building. Prosecutors say police used chemical spray to maintain order.

Oath Keepers also reportedly had an armed “Quick Reaction Force” stationed at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Va., and other locations outside the capital. Prosecutors say they were prepared to bring weapons to Washington in support of the operations of the sworn-in.

Mr. Rhodes has been under investigation for his role in the riots since at least late April, when FBI agents surrounded him in unmarked vehicles in Lubbock, Texas, confiscated his iPhone and issued him a search warrant. Nine of the others indicted this week were already facing criminal charges related to the assault. Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix was arrested Thursday on new charges

US sedition laws, dating back to the early days of the Civil War, when President Lincoln and Congress sought to punish armed resistance to the Union, have been used at least and not always successfully over the past 160 years. In 2010, the Justice Department charged members of a Michigan-based militia group with conspiracy to kill a local police officer as part of a plan to incite a rebellion against federal law enforcement. A federal judge in 2012 sedition charge dismissedciting lack of evidence.

William Barr, a former attorney general during the Trump administration, urged prosecutors to bring treason charges against protesters who laid siege to a federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., in 2020, but none were filed.

US Attorney Barb McQuade in Detroit at the time of the militia prosecution said the sedition-conspiracy charges were met with suspicion then, but sentiment is changing.

“It was easy to portray the militia groups as a bunch of harmless knuckles,” she said. “I think our society has become more aware of the real threat posed by anti-government groups since that time.”

Prosecution Mr. Rhodes-Yale Law School graduate, who briefly practiced law in Montana, has not been charged with directly participating in actions that the oath-takers took at the Capitol. But it tells how he created several forums on encrypted communications apps like Signal to coordinate plans with other members of the group almost immediately after the November 2020 election, buy weapons and other supplies to bring to Washington, and Oath Keeper. Helped in planning and coordinating activities. attack day.

“We’re not going through this without the Civil War. It’s too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, soul,” Mr. Rhodes wrote on November 5, 2020, according to the indictment to fellow sworn defenders. said that in later days he claimed to have communicated with a Serbian activist who had participated in civil protests in that country during the 1990s.

According to the indictment, Mr. Rhodes spent several thousand dollars on firearms and equipment—including a shotgun, scopes, magazines, sights—in the days before January 6. In the days following Capitol’s successful breach, he spent another $17,500 on equipment—including firearms.

Write Sadie Gurman at [email protected] and Byron Tau at [email protected]

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