11 Swordsmen charged in Jan. 6 riots

WASHINGTON – Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right militia group Oath Keepers, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with rebellious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. capital, authorities said Thursday.

Despite hundreds of accusations already raised this year since pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020, these were the first rebellious conspiracy allegations raised in in connection with the attack on 6 January. 2021

It marked a serious escalation in the largest investigation in the history of the Ministry of Justice – more than 700 people have been arrested and charged with federal crimes – and highlighted the work that has gone into bringing together the most complicated cases. Prosecutors in part deny the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers who have publicly challenged the seriousness of the uprising, arguing that since no one had yet been charged with rioting or treason, it could not have been so violent.

The indictment alleges that for weeks, the Oath Keepers have been discussing attempts to overthrow the election results and prepare for a siege by buying weapons and drawing up battle plans. They repeatedly wrote in chats about the prospect of violence and the need, as Rhodes allegedly wrote in a text, “to scare the s-out of” Congress. And on January 6, the indictment claims, they entered the Capitol building with the large crowd of rioters storming past police barriers and smashing windows, wounding dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

Authorities have said the Oath Keepers and their staff worked as if they were going to war, discussing 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.

The indictment against Rhodes claims that the Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” that went into the Capitol. The first stack split up inside the building to go after the House and Senate separately. The second stabbed 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.”

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

Rebellion charges are hard to win and are rarely used, but defendants risk steep 20-year prison sentences if convicted, compared to five for the other charges of conspiracy. 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.

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