Jury convicts Oath Keepers leader of seditious conspiracy

Rhodes faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for seditious conspiracy. The other defendants also face maximum sentences of 20 years for the obstruction conviction. The 12-juror panel deliberated for three full days before delivering their verdict.

All of the defendants except Watkins were also convicted of tampering with evidence. Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins were also convicted of conspiracy to prevent members of Congress from carrying out their duties. The same three defendants were all acquitted of destruction of property at the Capitol.

During the nine-week trial, prosecutors argued the group, under Rhodes’ leadership, prepared for an armed rebellion against the government shortly after Biden was expected to be the winner of the 2020 election. government officials painstakingly pieced together thousands of text and signal messages sent among key players in the alleged conspiracy during this crucial period – as Trump falsely claimed to be the victim of widespread fraud and his allies began to mobilize to help him overturn the election results.

Some of Rhodes’ lieutenants, including Meggs, Watkins, Harrelson and Caldwell, were heavily involved in these conversations or, prosecutors say, suppressed evidence of their involvement. Several other people charged with the seditious plot are set to go on trial next month, and another group of oath-keepers facing obstruction charges for their own January 6 actions are set to go on trial in February.

Throughout the two months since Election Day, Rhodes has used increasingly belligerent rhetoric to urge supporters to reject the incoming Biden administration, at times suggesting that he and other Oath Keeper allies should resist. to government authority and even take up arms against him if Biden were to be inaugurated. He mounted a public effort to persuade Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, a 19th-century law he says would allow Trump to deploy the military and replace the Oathkeepers as a militia backed by the government in order to prevent the transfer of power.

But prosecutors noted that Rhodes repeatedly told his supporters — using rhetoric drawn from the Revolutionary War era — that they should take matters into their own hands if Trump did not act. He stood outside the Capitol as a crowd of Trump supporters ransacked the building and bludgeoned police lines, celebrating the crowd’s actions as two dozen of his allies were inside.

And he later lamented after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that his supporters chose not to bring their guns to Washington.

Defense attorneys argued that Rhodes and the other four Oath Keeper defendants were prone to violent rhetoric, but made no effort to substantiate their claims. They noted that they had left their arsenal of firearms at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia on the day of the riot. They traveled to Washington to perform security details for speakers at Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and related events, including the likes of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and l organizer of the event, Ali Alexander, who were among those who participated in a Signal conversation with Rhodes shown by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Lawyers for Rhodes said he did not direct or authorize his allies’ decision to enter the Capitol during the riot, and some witnesses said he later characterized their decision to enter as « dumb ». The Oath Keepers also used to set up an armed ‘quick reaction force’ alongside the security operations they were involved in, just in case events turned violent – not an arsenal intended to overthrow the government, their lawyers said. .


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