Oath keepers’ Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack
A federal jury finds Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and a top deputy guilty of seditious conspiracy.
The founder of Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy in connection with a violent plot to overthrow President Joe Biden's election, giving the Justice Department a major victory in its massive prosecution of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurgency.
After three days of deliberation, a Washington, DC, jury found Rhodes guilty of sedition in the nearly two-month-long trial that highlighted the far-right extremist group's efforts to keep Republican Donald Trump in the White House at all costs.
Rhodes was cleared of two additional conspiracy charges. Kelly Meggs, the anti-government group's Florida chapter leader, was also convicted of seditious conspiracy, while three other associates were cleared. All five defendants were found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding: Congress' certification of Biden's electoral victory.
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While the verdict was mixed, it was a significant step forward for the Justice Department and is likely to pave the way for prosecutors to move forward with full force in upcoming trials of other extremists accused of sedition.
Prosecutors used dozens of encrypted messages, recordings, and surveillance video to argue that Rhodes began planning an armed rebellion shortly after the 2020 election to prevent the transfer of presidential power.
Jurors heard how Rhodes pushed his followers to fight to defend Trump, discussed the prospect of a “bloody” civil war, and warned the Oath Keepers may have to “rise up in insurrection” to defeat Biden if Trump didn’t act.
'No plans to attack'
In an unusual move, Rhodes took the stand to tell jurors that there was no plan to attack the Capitol and that his followers who went inside went rogue.
Rhodes testified that he had no idea his followers would join the mob and storm the Capitol and that he was disappointed when he found out that some did. Rhodes described their behavior as "stupid" and outside of their mission for the day.
Prosecutors claim that when the mob began storming the Capitol, the Oath Keepers saw an opportunity to advance their plot to prevent the transfer of power and sprang into action. In her closing argument, Assistant US Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy described the Capitol attack as a "means to an end" for the Oath Keepers.
Capitol rioters face legal fates
On his way to Washington ahead of the riot, Rhodes spent thousands of dollars on an AR-platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights, and other equipment, according to jurors.
They watched surveillance footage from a Virginia hotel where some Oath Keepers kept weapons for "quick response force" teams, which prosecutors said were ready to bring weapons into the city quickly if needed. These weapons were never used.
Oath Keepers wearing combat gear were seen on camera on January 6, shouldering their way through the crowd and into the Capitol. Rhodes remained outside like a “general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” a prosecutor said.
Tea was spilled in the last #Capitol riot hearing, as Cassidy Hutchinson revealed firsthand stories about #Trump's chaotic behavior before, during, and after the riots.#CapitolRiot #CapitolAttack #January6thHearings pic.twitter.com/7ko35ToJRM— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 29, 2022
After the riot, Rhodes and other Oath Keepers headed to an Olive Garden restaurant to celebrate, according to prosecutors.
The trial revealed new information about Rhodes' efforts to persuade Trump to fight for his job in the weeks leading up to January 6. Shortly after the election, Rhodes asked Stone in a group chat called "FOS" or "Friends of Stone," "So will you step up and push Trump to FINALLY take decisive action?"
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