Oath Keepers leader convicted of sedition in landmark Jan. 6 case
Nov. 29, 2022 Updated Tue., Nov. 29, 2022 at 4:07 p.m.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, and one of his subordinates were convicted Tuesday of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep former President Donald Trump in power through a plot that started after the 2020 election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol.
But the jury in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., found three other defendants in the case not guilty of sedition and acquitted Rhodes of two separate conspiracy charges.
The split verdicts, coming after three days of deliberations, were nonetheless a victory for the Justice Department and the first time in nearly 20 trials related to the Capitol attack that a jury decided that the violence that erupted Jan. 6, 2021, was the product of an organized conspiracy.
Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge brought so far in any of the 900 criminal cases stemming from the vast investigation of the Capitol attack, an inquiry that could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Rhodes was convicted of sedition along with Kelly Meggs, who ran the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers at the time of the Capitol attack.
Three other defendants in the case – Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell – were found not guilty of sedition.
Rhodes was acquitted of two conspiracy charges: one accusing him of plotting to disrupt the certification of the election Jan. 6 and the other of plotting to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.
The Oath Keepers sedition trial began the first week in U.S. District Court in Washington in early October when Jeffrey S. Nestler, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, told the jury in his opening statement that in the weeks after Joe Biden won the election, Rhodes and his subordinates “concocted a plan for an armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy”: the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Nestler also closed the government’s case last week, declaring that the Oath Keepers had plotted against Biden, ignoring both the law and the will of the voters, because they hated the results of the election.
“They claimed to be saving the Republic,” he said, “but they fractured it instead.”
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