Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rose and another leader of a right-wing group were found guilty Tuesday of seditious conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, prompting the Justice Department to It was an important victory.
The verdict against Rose and four co-defendants, after three days of deliberation by a 12-member jury, will be the highest ever to emerge from the January 6, 2021, fatal attack on the U.S. Capitol. It took place in the most high-profile trial. then-President Trump’s bid to overturn his 2020 election loss.
Rhodes, a Yale Law School-educated ex-Army Paratrooper and disqualified lawyer, has been blocked by Congress from proving Democratic President Joe Biden has defeated Republican President Trump. He was accused by prosecutors during an eight-week trial of planning to use force to try to kill him. Rhodes said he was convicted on three counts and acquitted on two counts.
One of his co-defendants, Kelly Meggs, was also found guilty of sedition conspiracy, and three others (Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell) were acquitted.
All five defendants were found guilty of obstructing official proceedings (parliamentary authentication of election results), and received varying verdicts on several other charges.
The charges of conspiracy to sedition and obstruction of justice carry a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment each.
Two more high-profile trials related to this attack are set to begin next month. Four of his other Oath His Keepers members have been charged with seditious conspiracy, as have members of the right-wing Proud Boys group, including former chairman Enriquetario.
Rhodes attorney James Lee Bright believes the ruling will inform how the Justice Department will proceed with other conspiratorial conspiracy prosecutions.
“We’re not happy, but this return probably speaks to the fact that the Justice Department, like everything else, is going full steam ahead,” Bright told reporters outside the courtroom. ” he said.
Rhodes, who wears an eyepatch after accidentally shooting himself in the face with his own gun, is one of the most prominent defendants among the nearly 900 people charged with the attack. Meggs, who heads the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, was the only defendant in the trial other than Rhodes to hold a leadership role in the organization.
In 2009, Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members are current and retired US military personnel, law enforcement officers, and first responders. Its members often appeared heavily armed at protests and political events across the United States, including racial justice demonstrations following the murder of a black man named George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
“The Department of Justice is committed to holding those criminally responsible for the attacks on democracy on January 6, 2021 to account,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Rhodes’ attorney Ed Tarpley called the ruling a “mixed bag”.
“I am grateful for the acquittal. I am disappointed for the conviction,” Tarpley told reporters outside the courtroom. “There was no evidence presented to show that there was a plan to attack the Capitol.”
Prosecutors at trial said Rhodes and his co-defendants had planned to use force to prevent Congress formally proving Biden’s election victory. , donned tactical gear and entered the Houses of Parliament.
The defendant was also accused of creating a “rapid response unit,” which prosecutors said was stationed at a nearby Virginia hotel and equipped with firearms that could be rapidly transported to Washington.
Fifty witnesses, including Rhodes and two of his co-defendants, testified during the trial. Although they denied planning the attack or trying to prevent Congress from certifying the election results, Watkins admitted to obstructing police officers guarding the Capitol.
Rhodes told the jury that there was no plan to storm the Capitol and did not know until after the riot that some of his fellow Oathkeepers had breached the building.
During cross-examination, prosecutors attempted to portray Rhodes as a liar, showing page after page of his inflammatory text messages, videos, photos, and voice recordings. These include Rhodes, who lamented not having brought a rifle to Washington on Jan. 6, to hang U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who was taunted by the right. said it could have been done.
Watkins, a transgender woman who fled the U.S. military after facing homophobia, and Caldwell, a disabled U.S. Navy veteran, also chose to testify.
Watkins admitted he had “criminal responsibility” for obstructing police officers inside the Capitol and apologized. It was “wiped out” like “Black Friday,” when stores rushed to buy discounted holiday gifts such as.
Her attorney, Jonathan Crisp, told reporters he was “grateful” that his client was acquitted of sedition.
Caldwell, who had never entered the Capitol like Rhodes and had never formally joined the Oathkeepers, attempted to downplay some of the inflammatory texts he sent around the attack. And some lines are said to be adapted or inspired by movies such as “The Princess Bride” and comics such as Bugs Bunny.
Lawyers for both Harrelson and Rose told reporters after the trial that they intended to appeal the convictions.