Proper-wing Oath Keepers founder convicted of sedition in U.S. Capitol assault plot By Reuters



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes holds a radio as he departs with volunteers from a rally held by U.S. President Donald Trump in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. October 10, 2019. Image taken October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart


By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Stewart Rhodes, founding father of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia group, was convicted by a jury on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy for final yr’s assault on the U.S. Capitol in a failed bid to overturn then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss – an essential victory for the Justice Division.

Rhodes, a Yale Legislation Faculty-educated former Military paratrooper and disbarred legal professional, was accused by prosecutors throughout an eight-week trial of fomenting a plot to make use of drive to dam Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump.

His was the primary verdict learn out on behalf of the 12-member jury in essentially the most important of the quite a few trials arising from the lethal Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. U.S. District Decide Amit Mehta has presided over the trial.

The opposite verdicts had been nonetheless being learn.

The 4 co-defendants of Rhodes within the trial are Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell. Rhodes, who wears an eye fixed patch after by chance capturing himself within the face along with his personal gun, is without doubt one of the most outstanding defendants of the roughly 900 charged to this point in reference to the assault.

Rhodes in 2009 based the Oath Keepers, a militia group whose members embody present and retired U.S. army personnel, legislation enforcement officers and first responders. Its members have confirmed up, usually closely armed, at protests and political occasions round the USA together with the racial justice demonstrations following the homicide of a Black man named George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.

Prosecutors in the course of the trial mentioned Rhodes and his co-defendants deliberate to make use of drive to forestall Congress from formally certifying Biden’s election victory. Meggs, Watkins and Harrelson all entered the Capitol clad in tactical gear.

The defendants was had been accused of making a “fast response drive” that prosecutors mentioned positioned at a close-by Virginia lodge and was outfitted with firearms that might be rapidly transported into Washington if summoned.

Fifty witnesses testified in the course of the trial. Rhodes and two of his co-defendants testified in their very own protection. They denied plotting any assault or looking for to dam Congress from certifying the election outcomes, although Watkins admitted to impeding cops defending the Capitol.

Rhodes advised the jury he had no plan to storm the Capitol and didn’t study that a few of his fellow Oath Keepers had breached the constructing till after the riot had ended.

Prosecutors throughout cross-examination sought to color Rhodes as a liar, exhibiting him web page after web page of his inflammatory textual content messages, movies, photographs and audio recordings. These included Rhodes lamenting about not bringing rifles to Washington on Jan. 6 and saying he might have hanged U.S. Home of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat reviled by the fitting, from a lamppost.

Watkins, a transgender girl who fled the U.S. Military after being confronted with homophobic slurs, and Caldwell, a disabled U.S. Navy veteran, additionally selected to testify.

Watkins admitted to having “felony legal responsibility” for impeding cops contained in the Capitol and apologized. On the identical time, Watkins denied having any plan to storm the constructing, describing being “swept up” simply as enthusiastic consumers behave on “Black Friday” after they rush into shops to buy discount-price vacation items like TVs.

Caldwell, who like Rhodes didn’t enter the Capitol constructing and by no means formally joined the Oath Keepers, tried to downplay among the inflammatory texts he despatched in reference to the assault. Caldwell mentioned among the traces had been tailored from or impressed by motion pictures similar to “The Princess Bride” and cartoons similar to Bugs Bunny.

4 different Oath Keepers members charged with seditious conspiracy are as a result of go to trial in December. Members of one other right-wing group referred to as the Proud Boys, together with its former chairman Enrique Tarrio, are also as a result of head to trial on seditious conspiracy fees in December.

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