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Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right organization Oath Keepers, has been found guilty of conspiracy to sedition and other charges related to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, also found Rhodes of obstructing an official proceeding and forging documents. He was acquitted on two other conspiracy charges.
A prosecutor said Rhodes did not enter the Capitol during the riot, but stood outside like a “war general” inspecting his troops.
All five defendants tried in this case were charged with conspiracy to sedition but only one other than Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, was found guilty. Three other defendants – Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell – were acquitted of that central charge.
But all of the defendants were found guilty of obstructing a formal proceeding as well as a host of other charges.
The jurors delivered their verdict after nearly three days of deliberation.
As the superintendent read the verdict aloud, Rhodes lowered his head and scribbled a note to himself. Watkins nodded vigorously when she was not found guilty of conspiracy to sedition and Caldwell closed his eyes several times.
US Metropolitan Police officer Harry Dunn, who testified in the trial, sat in the front row to hear the jury’s verdict. He looked emotional and let out a long sigh after the jury left the courtroom.
The prosecution of the leader of the Oath-Keepers and his accomplices is the most serious case on January 6 that has yet to go to trial.
Prosecutors allege the five conspired to prevent, by any means necessary, including force, the peaceful transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden.
Rhodes and the other Oath-Keepers were the first defendants on January 6 to go on trial on charges of conspiracy to sedition. Two more conspiracy trials — one involving more Vow-Keepers and the other involving a group of Proud Boys — will begin in the coming weeks.
In this trial, the government called more than two dozen witnessesincluding FBI agents, U.S. Congressional Police officers, and two Oath-Keepers stormed the Capitol on January 6 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
But the cornerstone of the government’s case are hundreds of text messages, Facebook communications, as well as audio and video recordings that allow jurors to see and hear what defendants said and thought in their conversations. month before January 6, on the date itself and after.
During many of those communications, Rhodes and his accomplices spoke in provocative, sometimes even apocalyptic terms, about violence, civil war, and the need to fight to keep Trump. power.
In a message that prosecutors cited in their final argument, Rhodes told his supporters days after the 2020 presidential election: “We’re not going to get through this if we don’t get through this.” no civil war. Prepare your mind, body and spirit.”
In the weeks that followed, the defendants began taking steps to coordinate their activities. Meanwhile, Rhodes continued to appeal to his followers against a potential Biden presidency, which he argued would be an illegitimate puppet regime of Communist China.
According to prosecutors, after Trump announced the rally on January 6, the defendants focused their efforts on that day.
The text messages showed they were planning a trip to Washington, DC, and discussed what kind of gear to bring, including weapons.
Finally, on January 6, they stored their guns at a hotel in Virginia just outside of Washington and had a quick-response force ready to storm downtown if needed.
On that very day, Rhodes did not enter the Capitol, but three of his accomplices did enter, in stacked military-style formations: Meggs, Harrelson, and Watkins.
Days after the siege of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, a former soldier secretly recorded Rhodes saying he regrets not bringing a rifle to the Capitol and threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-California.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy urged jurors in her final argument not to become “paralyzed” by the violence, warning that democracy is in a state of disrepair. fragile.
Lawyers for defendants pushed back against different aspects of the government’s case.
Witnesses testified that having a quick-response force was the habit of the Oath-Keepers, and that the group had similar teams established at previous protests.
They said the oath-holders were there to provide security to pro-Trump speakers and key figures.
The defense also took statements from witnesses, including two Oath-keepers who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, that there were no plans to storm the Capitol. They also said Rhodes never ordered them to enter the building.
But the government points to testimony from cooperating witnesses who say there was a tacit understanding – an unwritten agreement – that the Oath Keepers were reached to do whatever was necessary to prevent Biden from taking office.
And while there may not have been a concrete plan in advance, prosecutors say the Capitol riots provided an opportunity for the Oath-Keepers to act to try to thwart National certification. about Biden winning the election.