Court Battles

Oath Keepers go on trial in high-profile Jan. 6 case

AP-Susan Walsh

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the far-right militia group will stand trial starting on Tuesday in one of the most high-profile Jan. 6 cases yet.

Rhodes and 10 of his fellow Oath Keepers are charged with seditious conspiracy over their alleged plot to prevent the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, an offense that carries up to 20 years in prison. 

The first of two Oath Keepers trials this fall, Rhodes’s represents a major test for the Justice Department, as it seeks to obtain a guilty trial verdict for seditious conspiracy for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The trial began on Tuesday with jury selection and is expected to last more than a month. Rhodes stands trial alongside Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell. 

The remaining Oath Keepers who have not yet pleaded guilty are scheduled to stand trial in November. Two members of the group — Joshua James and Brian Ulrich — previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four other members of the far-right group are also facing charges of seditious conspiracy and are set to stand trial in December. 

Rhodes and his fellow defendants are accused of planning to use force to prevent the transfer of power from former President Trump to President Biden during Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court documents.

The Oath Keepers allegedly began coordinating plans in November 2020 to amass weapons and travel to Washington for the Jan. 6 certification.

On the day itself, Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins allegedly marched in a “stack formation” through the crowd outside the Capitol. Once inside, the group reportedly split up — with half heading towards the Senate chamber and the other half heading towards the House side in search of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Caldwell is accused of coordinating the “quick reaction force” teams outside the city, which were prepared to transport firearms and other weapons. Rhodes himself is not accused of entering the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers’ lawyers are expected to argue that the defendants believed that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, which would give them standing to use force as a militia, according to The New York Times.

However, prosecutors have rejected this reading of the law, claiming that the Insurrection Act does not permit the president to call up private armed groups, the Times noted. 

Tags Biden Insurrection Act Jan. 6 Capitol riot Nancy Pelosi Oath Keepers proud Boys Stewart Rhodes Stewart Rhodes Trump

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