Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, 10 others accused of rebellious conspiracy in the January 6 Capitol Uprising

WASHINGTON – Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, has been arrested and charged with rebellious conspiracy in the attack on the U.S. capital, authorities said Thursday.

Ten other people were also charged with rebellious conspiracy in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack, when authorities said members of the extremist group came to Washington to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

These are the first allegations of outrageous conspiracy brought by the Justice Department in connection with the attack led by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas, and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, were arrested Thursday. The others who were charged were already facing criminal charges in connection with the attack. Rhodes is the highest-ranking member of an extremist group that has been arrested in the deadly siege.

The arrest of Rhodes and the others is a serious escalation of charges against the thousands of troublemakers who stormed the Capitol. And the accusations are partly in response to a growing chorus of Republicans who have publicly questioned the seriousness of the January 6 uprising, arguing that since no one had yet been charged with rebellion or treason, it could not have been so. violently.

Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building on January 6, but is accused of having helped set in motion the violence that disrupted the confirmation of the vote. The Oath Keepers case is the largest conspiracy case the federal authorities have filed so far during Jan. 6, when rioters stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, wounding dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

The indictment against Rhodes claims that the Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” that went into the Capitol. The first “stack” split inside the building to go after the House and the Senate separately. The second “stack” confronted officers inside the Capitol Rotunda, the indictment said. Outside Washington, the indictment alleges that the Oath Keepers had stationed two “rapid reaction forces” that had weapons “in support of their plan to stop the lawful transfer of power.”

Jonathan Moseley, a lawyer representing Rhodes, said his client was arrested Thursday in Texas.

“He has been the subject of a lot of suspicion as to why he was not indicted,” so far in the January 6 riot, Moseley said. “I do not know if this is a response to those discussions, but we think it is unfortunate. It is an unusual situation.”

Moseley said Rhodes was to testify before Parliament’s committee investigating the January 6 uprising in a landfill, but it was canceled. He spoke to Rhodes on the phone about the committee when Rhodes was contacted by the FBI.

Rhodes has said in interviews with right-wing hosts that there was no plan to storm the Capitol and that the members who did so became junk. But he continues to push on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, while posts on the Oath Keeper website have portrayed the group as a victim of political persecution.

Authorities have said the Oath Keepers and their staff prepared in the weeks leading up to January 6, as if they were going to war and discuss weapons and training. Days before the attack, a defendant in a text message suggested getting a boat to ferry weapons across the Potomac River to their “waiting arms,” ​​prosecutors say.

On January 6, several members, wearing camouflaged combat suits, were seen on camera shrugging their way through the crowd and into the Capitol in a military-style stack formation, authorities say.

Oath Keeper defendants have argued in court that the only plan was to provide security during the demonstration before the riots or to protect themselves from possible attacks by left-wing antifa activists.

Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and graduate of Yale Law School who founded Oath Keepers in 2009, has appeared in court documents in the conspiracy case for weeks as “Person One.”

Authorities say Rhodes held a GoToMeeting call days after the election, telling his followers to go to Washington and let Trump know “that the people are behind him.” Rhodes told members that they should be prepared to fight the antifa and that some Oath Keepers should “stay on the outside” and be “ready to go in armed” if necessary.

“We will defend the president, the duly elected president, and we urge him to do what needs to be done to save our country. Because if you do not, you will be in a bloody, bloody civil war and a bloody – you can call it a revolt, or you can call it a war or battle, “Rhodes said according to court documents.

Authorities have said Rhodes was part of an encrypted signal chat with Oath Keepers from several states until Jan. 6 called “DC OP: Jan. 6, 21” and it showed the group “activated a plan to use force. ” that day.

On the afternoon of the 6th, authorities say Rhodes told the group over Signal: “All I see Trump doing is complaining. I do not see that he intends to do anything. So the Patriots are taking it into their own hands. They have had enough. “

Around 2.30pm, Rhodes had a 97-second phone call with Kelly Meggs, the respected leader of the group’s branch in Florida, which was part of the military style, authorities say. About 10 minutes later, Rhodes sent a photo to the group showing the southeast side of the Capitol with the caption “South side of the US Capitol. Patriots knock on doors.” Around the same time, those in the stack formation entered the Capitol by force, prosecutors say.

Oath Keepers and members of other extremist groups, such as the Proud Boys, make up just a fraction of the more than 580 people who have been charged in the riot. But several of their leaders, members and staff have become the central targets of the Justice Department’s extensive investigation, while authorities work to determine the extent to which the attack was planned in advance.

The last time U.S. prosecutors filed such a rebellious conspiracy case was in 2010 in an alleged Michigan conspiracy by members of the Hutaree militia to incite a revolt against the government. But a judge ordered acquittal of a rebel conspiracy in a 2012 trial, saying the prosecutors relied too much on hateful accusations protected by the First Amendment and did not, as required, prove that the accused ever had detailed plans for an uprising. .

Among the last successful convictions for rebellious conspiracy stemmed from another, now largely forgotten storming of the Capitol in 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on the floor of the house and wounded five representatives.

Overall, the bar for proving rebellion is not as high as it is for the related accusation of treason. Yet rebellion charges have been rare and difficult to win.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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