National Security

Judge denies Oath Keepers leader’s request for special master ahead of seditious conspiracy trial

A federal judge on Tuesday denied Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes’s requests to appoint a special master in his Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case and delay the trial.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta’s brief order came hours after Rhodes’s attorney had requested the special master appointment to assist in discovery, saying it spanned more than 10 terabytes of data. The Justice Department objected to the motion.

The use of a special master, a court-appointed official who carries out an action on its behalf, has come into the spotlight after former President Trump requested one to examine materials seized by the FBI at his Mar-a-Lago residence in August. The judge in that case granted the request.

“One of the most cost-effective methods for managing and dispensing discovery of such a massive volume is to engage a special master to help manage discovery,” Rhodes’s attorney wrote in the filing. “Special masters can promote efficiency in discovery, the phase of litigation that is most likely to break down and cause delays to case resolution.”

The judge said he will outline his reasoning for denying the request during a pretrial conference scheduled for Wednesday.

Rhodes is set to go on trial on Sept. 26 alongside other members of the far-right group for seditious conspiracy and other charges related to their involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Rhodes has repeatedly asked the judge to delay his trial, arguing he has had less time to prepare than the other defendants and he has been sent to four different jails that each had obstacles hindering his preparation.

The judge on Tuesday denied Rhodes’s attorney’s latest delay request, which asked for Rhodes to have a stand-alone trial or alternatively to join another group slated to be tried beginning Nov. 10. The Justice Department objected to the motion.

“Neither Rhodes nor any of his attorneys are prepared for trial, and massive discovery drops from the government continue each week,” Rhodes’s attorney, Edward Tapley, wrote in the request.

Tapley recently began representing Rhodes after the Oath Keepers leader said he had a breakdown in communication with his previous attorneys. 

The judge last week denied a previous delay request, which cited the change as a reason Rhodes could not properly defend himself in the trial slated for later this month.

Rhodes’s new court filings also indicate he planned to involve Oath Keepers attorney Kellye SoRelle in Rhodes’s defense, calling SoRelle a “necessary witness.” SoRelle was arrested earlier this month in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

“SoRelle, in fact, was one of the closest people to Rhodes during Rhodes’ planning and participation in events on Jan. 6, and SoRelle would have been a key witness through whom Rhodes would have informed the jury of Rhodes’ demeanor, state of mind and intentions,” Rhodes’s attorney told the judge.

Tags Amit Mehta Jan. 6 Jan. 6 Capitol riot Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes Stewart Rhodes Trump

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