Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of agitating conspiracy

Jury convicts the leader of a far-right group that supports Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the far-right Oath-Keeper militia, was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, charges arising from the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump.

Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs were the first people in nearly three decades to be found guilty of a civil war-era charge that was rarely used at trial. The trial is the biggest test yet for the US justice department in its quest to hold those responsible for the attack that shook the very foundations of US democracy. On social media, Harry Litman, a former US attorney turned legal analyst, said the guilty verdict represented "a very big, big win for the US [the justice department] in a case that is challenging and very important, even historic".

Rhodes is a former Yale Law-educated paratrooper and a retired attorney. In an eight-week trial, he and four associates are accused of instigating a plot to use force to stop Congress certifying Joe Biden's 2020 election win.

It was the most significant trial to emerge from the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2021, which has been linked to nine deaths including suicide among law enforcement officers. A US district judge, Amit Mehta, presided over. The 12-member jury deliberated for three days.

Rhodes' four co-defendants are Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell.

Meggs was convicted of seditious conspiracy. Harrelson, Caldwell and Watkins were released.

During the trial, Watkins admitted to obstructing police officers, and apologised. All five defendants were convicted of obstruction of justice, with varying sentences on several other charges. Rhodes was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges.

Rhodes intends to appeal, defense attorney James Lee Bright told reporters. Another Rhodes attorney, Ed Tarpley, described the ruling as a "mixed bag", adding, "This is not a total victory for the government in any way, shape, or form."

"We feel like we're bringing a case that shows through evidence and testimony that Mr Rhodes did not commit a crime of seditious conspiracy," Tarpley said.

Rhodes, who wore a blindfold after accidentally shooting himself in the face, is one of the most prominent defendants out of some 900 people charged so far in connection with the Capitol attack.

He founded Oath Keepers, whose members include current and retired military personnel, law enforcement officers, and first responders, in 2009. Members have appeared, often heavily armed, at protests and political events including demonstrations following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Prosecutors said Rhodes and his co-defendants planned to use force to stop Congress from certifying Biden's victory.

Rhodes did not enter the Capitol but was accused of leading the plot. Through recordings and encrypted messages, jurors heard how he rallied followers to fight for Trump, warned about the "bloody" civil war and expressed regret that Oath Keeper did not carry a rifle on January 6.

Meggs, Watkins, and Harrelson enter the Capitol in tactical gear. The defendants are accused of creating a "rapid response force" stationed in a hotel in Virginia and equipped with firearms that could be quickly transported to Washington.

Fifty witnesses testified. Rhodes and two others testified in their own defense. They denied planning the attacks or trying to stop Congress from passing the results. Rhodes insisted that his followers who went inside went rogue.

Prosecutors attempted to paint Rhodes as a liar, showing him his seditious text messages, videos, photos and recordings. This included Rhodes saying he could have hung the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, from a lamppost.

Watkins, a transgender woman who fled from the US army, and Caldwell, a disabled navy veteran, were the others who chose to testify.

Watkins admitted "criminal responsibility" for obstructing officers inside the Capitol but denied plans to storm the building, instead describing "swept away" at the time, much like the behavior of enthusiastic shoppers when they rush to stores to buy discounted holiday gifts.

Caldwell, who like Rhodes had not entered the Capitol, never formally joined the Oath Keepers. He has tried to play down the inflammatory texts he sent in connection with the attack, saying some lines were adapted from or inspired by movies such as The Princess Bride or cartoons such as Bugs Bunny.

The other four members of Oath Keeper charged with conspiracy to incite will be tried in December. Members of another far-right group, the Proud Boys, including its former chairman Enrique Tarrio, will also be tried on charges of seditious conspiracy in December. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form