Stewart Rhodes, creator of Oath Keepers, was convicted of treasonous conspiracy for a violent plot to overthrow President Joe Biden’s election on Jan. 6, 2021.
A Washington, D.C., jury convicted Rhodes for sedition following 3 days of proceedings in the nearly two-month-long case highlighting the far-right extremist party’s attempts to keep Trump in the White House at any means.
Two additional conspiracy accusations were dropped.
SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY VERDICT
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) November 29, 2022
The DOJ Hit a Lot of Targets Here
Kelly Meggs, who drove the opposition group’s Florida chapter, was sentenced to prison for seditious conspiracy.
Three others were cleared.
All five defendants were convicted of obstructing Congress’ confirmation of Biden’s win.
The decision, while mixed, represents a milestone for the Justice Dept and will likely allow prosecutors to move forward with future sedition cases.
Rhodes and Meggs were the first persons in over 30 years to be convicted of seditious conspiracy. The crime carries a 20-year sentence.
Huge news: Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes convicted of seditious conspiracy. As a journalist, I’ve covered Oath Keepers since 2009, recounted in Wingnuts. As a historian, I can tell you that seditious conspiracy convictions are incredibly rare. And in this case deserved.
— John Avlon (@JohnAvlon) November 29, 2022
The Crusade Against Trump
It might empower investigators to focus on others tied to Trump’s efforts to alter the 2020 election. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has designated Jack Smith as special counsel to supervise an investigation into efforts to influence the election and a secondary inquiry into Trump’s Florida home. Mar-a- Lago.
Garland stated following the judgment that the Justice Department “will hold criminally liable anyone who attacked our democracy on January 6, 2021.”
Prosecutors used encrypted conversations, tapes, and surveillance footage to argue Rhodes planned an armed uprising after the 2020 election to halt the transfer of presidential authority.
What Did Rhodes Do?
Over seven weeks of evidence, jurors heard how Rhodes encouraged his members to protect Trump, predicted a “bloody” civil war, and said the Oath Keepers might have to “rise in revolt” to destroy Biden if Trump didn’t intervene.
Defense counsel accused prosecutors of misrepresenting their clients’ remarks and said the Oath Keepers traveled to Washington to protect Trump friend Roger Stone. The defense tried to establish Rhodes’ statement was bravado, and the Oath Keepers had no plot to attack the Capitol before Jan. 6.
Rhodes’ attorney says he’ll appeal. Ed Tarpley, another Rhodes lawyer, called the ruling a “mixed bag” and said it wasn’t a clear success for the government.
Tarpley said they provided facts and testimony showing Mr. Rhodes didn’t conduct seditious conspiracy.
Kenneth Harrelson, fellow Florida Oath Keeper, Thomas Caldwell, a former Virginia Navy operative, and Jessica Watkins, an Ohio militia leader, were also on trial.
Caldwell was guilty on two counts, including seditious conspiracy. His lawyer termed the ruling a “huge success” for his client and a “big loss” for the Justice Department. He claimed he’d fight both convictions.
Next Monday, jury selection for a second Oath Keepers case will begin. Several Proud Boys, including former national head Enrique Tarrio, faced sedition charges in December.
Rhodes Denies the Charges
Rhodes told jurors there was no strategy to attack the Capitol and his supporters that got inside went rogue.
Rhodes stated he didn’t know his supporters would join the mob and attack the Capitol and was outraged when he found out. Rhodes called their behavior “dumb” and off-mission.
When the crowd stormed the Capitol, the Oath Keepers saw a chance to block the power transition, according to prosecutors. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy told jurors the Capitol attack was a “means to a goal.”
Rhodes bought an AR-platform rifle, magazines, attachments, sights, and other equipment before the disturbance. They examined security footage from a Virginia hotel where Oath Keepers allegedly hid guns for “rapid reaction force” squads. (They were never used.)
On Jan. 6, Oath Keepers in military gear were observed in the Capitol. Prosecutor: Rhodes stayed outside like a “general observing his men” Prosecutors say Rhodes and other Oath Keepers celebrated the riot at Olive Garden.
The trial revealed additional facts regarding Rhodes’ efforts to push Trump in the weeks before Jan. 6. Rhodes asked Stone in a group conversation after the election, “Will you urge Trump to FINALLY take meaningful action?”
Another individual testified that following the violence, Rhodes pushed Trump to keep fighting for power. The intermediary, who told jurors he could reach Trump indirectly, filmed his discussion with Rhodes and went to the FBI.
Three additional Oath Keepers admitted seditious conspiracy. In 1995, the Justice Department successfully prosecuted Islamic terrorists who conspired to attack New York City landmarks.