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World: Why the Oath Keepers were not charged with treason

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Two members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia including leader Stewart Rhodes have been convicted of seditious conspiracy for their actions during the Capitol riot on 6 January 2021.

A clip of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was shown to a Congressional committee investigating the 6 January attack © Getty Images A clip of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was shown to a Congressional committee investigating the 6 January attack

What's the charge and how is it different from treason?

Seditious conspiracy

Put simply, seditious conspiracy is when a group of people plot to overthrow the government or use force "to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States" - the section which became the focus of the Oath Keepers trial.

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Prosecutors introduced a huge number of text messages and videos to argue that militia members had agreed to stop Congress from completing the normal transfer of presidential power. There was no specific plan to storm the Capitol, nor did the prosecution have to prove there was - only that there was a tacit agreement to prevent Congress from carrying out its duties.

The rarely-used law dates from the Civil War and is tricky to prove. In 2010 members of a Christian nationalist militia in Michigan were accused of the crime by the US Department of Justice, but the charges were thrown out. The last successful prosecution under the law was against a group of 10 al-Qaeda supporters in 1995.

Treason

In the US, treason is a unique crime - the only one specifically spelled out in the Constitution. It narrowly defines treason as levying war against the US or giving "aid and comfort" to the country's enemies.

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It further goes on to state a high standard of proof: "No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court."

Treason prosecutions are even rarer than seditious conspiracy cases, and is punishable by death, with a minimum sentence of five years in jail.

None of the 6 January rioters have been charged with treason, but further seditious conspiracy cases against Oath Keepers and members of the Proud Boys will go to trial next month.

Militia founder Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, head of the Oath Keepers' Florida chapter, now face up to 20 years in prison on the seditious conspiracy count. Their lawyers say they intend to appeal against the verdict.

Rioter who assaulted cops at Capitol gets 5 years in prison .
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Tennessee man who authorities say came to Washington ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot prepared for violence in a car full of weapons and assaulted officers who were trying to defend the Capitol was sentenced Friday to more than five years behind bars. Ronald Sandlin, 35, of Millington, Tennessee, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers. TwoRonald Sandlin, 35, of Millington, Tennessee, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers.

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