Oath Keepers trial: A 1800s-inspired defense meets most significant Jan. 6 prosecution yet
In a case that could be a referendum on the insurrection, "prosecutors are really going for the three-pointer" against an untested, controversial defense.The stakes are high for the federal government, which seeks to make the case not only that Rhodes and the others helped lead the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, but that they did so as the apogee of a conspiracy they had been planning for months or years.
© Jim Urquhart, Reuters Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Militia of the Oath Keepers, on June 20, 2016 in Eureka, in Montana.
Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right militia Oath Keepers, as well as four other members of the group are tried in the United States for "Sedition", a rare charges liable to 20 years in prison. They are accused of having "plotted in order to oppose the legal transfer of the presidential power" on January 6, 2021, when the Capitol was attacked by supporters of Donald Trump.
The trial for the sedition of several members of the US militia from the far right Oath Keepers, including its founder Stewart Rhodes, came to the spot on Monday October 3, the prosecutors accusing them of having heavily armed on January 6, 2021 for Attack Capitol to keep Donald Trump in power.
What is seditious conspiracy?
The leader and other members of the right-wing militia group Oath Keepers are set to stand trial next week, facing some of the most serious charges stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Stewart Rhodes and the four other Oath Keepers are facing charges of seditious conspiracy, along with obstructing an official proceeding, conspiring to…Stewart Rhodes and the four other Oath Keepers are facing charges of seditious conspiracy, along with obstructing an official proceeding, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy to prevent an officer of the United States from discharging a duty.
The lawyer for the Ministry of Justice, Jeffrey Nestler, said that Stewart Rhodes, a former soldier known for his black cache and his inflamed diatribes, knew exactly what he was doing by driving the members of his militia towards the siege of the US Congress.
showing videos of the violent attack by dozens of members of the group dressed in combat clothes, Jeffrey Nestler said that Stewart Rhodes had led them "as a general on the battlefield", when elected officials were trying to Certify the victory of Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election.
On January 6, 2021, the Oath Keepers "developed a plan for an armed rebellion (...), plotting to oppose the government of the United States by force," he said. "They did not go to the capital to defend or help. They went there to attack."
What to Know About the Oath Keepers' Seditious Conspiracy Trial
The case is a test for the Justice Department, which is seeking to successfully prosecute the rare charges for the first time in 30 years . Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, and 10 fellow members of the group are alleged to have conspired to use force to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. The charge carries up to 20 years in prison. Jury selection began on Sept. 27, with opening arguments currently slated to start next week. The trial is expected to last more than a month. A second trial for the remaining co-defendants is scheduled for November.
Stewart Rhodes lawyer, Phillip Linder, assured him that his client, who graduated in the prestigious Yale University, was "extremely patriotic" and "a constitutional expert". According to him, the Oath Keepers had come to Washington to ensure security.
"The Oath Keepers are almost a peacekeeping force. They make themselves available to help maintain peace in the streets," he added. "Stewart Rhodes did not intend to hurt the Capitol that day. Stewart Rhodes had no violent intentions that day," he insisted.
"This is the biggest false advertisement in the history of the American judicial system," said David Fischer, lawyer for another accused, member of the Oath Keepers, Thomas Caldwell. The latter had been charged within the organization to create an "rapid reaction force" armed to ward off any eventuality and she would have been "defensive" if Donald Trump had called on them, according to the defense.
Trump at center of Oath Keepers novel defense in Jan. 6 case
WASHINGTON (AP) — The defense team in the Capitol riot trial of the Oath Keepers leader is relying on an unusual strategy with Donald Trump at the center. Lawyers for Stewart Rhodes, founder of the extremist group, are poised to argue that jurors cannot find him guilty of seditious conspiracy because all the actions he took before the siege on Jan. 6, 2021, were in preparation for orders he anticipated from the then-president — orders that never came.
But this "force" has never been mobilized, Thomas Caldwell never entered the Capitol and never attacked anyone, according to his lawyer. "He went to Washington for an evening with his wife," says David Fischer.
Stewart Rhodes is tried at the same time as four regional officials from his militia. Their lawyers said in court documents that they did not wish to overthrow the government but that they expected Donald Trump to declare the state of insurrection, under a law of 1807 which allows the American presidents to mobilize certain armed forces in exceptional contexts.
But for Jeffrey Nestler, this argument is only a strategy from Stewart Rhodes to protect himself. Since the assault, more than 870 people have been arrested and a hundred has received prison terms, including the authors of violence against the police. But so far, no one had defended himself from "sedition".
Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson are the first to be judged as such. This charging chief emanates from a law adopted after the Civil War to repress the last southern rebels. Listed by 20 years in prison, it involves having planned the use of force to overthrow the government or oppose one of its laws. It differs from the insurgency, with a more spontaneous character.
According to the indictment, the accused "plotted in order to oppose the legal transfer of the presidential power". Concretely, Stewart Rhodes is accused of having started rallying his troops in November 2020. "We are not going to get out of it without a civil war," he wrote, two days after the presidential election, on an encrypted messaging.
FBI agent testifies about secret recording of Oath Keepers planning Jan. 6 riot .
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