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Oath Keeper’s lawyer tells jury ‘hoodlums’ caused Jan. 6 attack on US Capitol

Nov. 21, 2022 Updated Mon., Nov. 21, 2022 at 1:02 p.m.

Police try to hold back protesters who gather to storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.    (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Police try to hold back protesters who gather to storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.   (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
By Erik Larson Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — Members of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia on trial for seditious conspiracy “didn’t touch or push open a single door, or break any windows” as the U.S. Capitol was overrun by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters, a defense lawyer told jurors on Monday.

Kenneth Harrelson, a military veteran who helped organize the Oath Keepers’ Florida chapter, only entered the building after rioters jumped through windows they smashed with 2-by-4s and opened the doors from the inside, his attorney Brad Geyer said in a closing argument in federal court in Washington.

Geyer showed jurors CCTV footage of his client both inside and outside the building on Jan. 6, 2021, saying Harrelson was only in the building for 17 minutes, and that it “boggles the mind” that he was part of any violent plan. The lawyer called the rioters “hoodlums” and “goons” and said his client was only in Washington to provide security at a pro-Trump rally that day.

“Ken did go in — you will see him filming, you will see him get down on his knees and pray to the Almighty under that majestic dome, because it was the fist time he ever saw it,” Geyer said. “Video doesn’t lie.”

Closing arguments for two more defendants — Thomas Caldwell and Jessica Watkins — are also expected Monday, after which deliberations will start.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta is overseeing the first seditious conspiracy trial stemming from the attack, which caused $2 million in damage and injured more than 140 police officers. Much is at stake for the Justice Department, which seeks to prove that Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes, a Yale Law School graduate, and four others conspired to commit violence and prevent President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump from being confirmed by Congress.

Harrelson’s lawyer called the seditious conspiracy charge “nonsense.” The Florida man is also charged with destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding and entering a restricted building.

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