The trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four of his co-defendants is set to start in the U.S. District Court in Washington on Sept. 27, marking one of the most high-profile cases to emerge from the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Jury selection began Tuesday and could take several days, while the trial itself is expected to last at least six weeks and will likely feature testimony from dozens of witnesses, video footage from the day of the breach, and audio and text message communications between the defendants.
Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, and Kelly Meggs are the first people in over 10 years to face federal charges of seditious conspiracy in their alleged actions to prevent the certification of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election between President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.
Seditious conspiracy is defined as two or more people plotting “to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States” and carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The five accused Oath Keeper defendants also face charges of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property, civil disorder, conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging duties, and other counts, according to a 48-page indictment (pdf).
The indictment against them alleges that they conspired to “oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power” from Trump to Biden and that they “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer RHODES’S call to take up arms at RHODES’S direction.”
“Some coconspirators also amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., distributed them among “quick reaction force” (“QRF”) teams, and planned to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power,” the indictment states.
‘Had No Plans’ to Attack Capitol
Oath Keepers is a nationwide group of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders founded in 2009 by Rhodes. The group seeks to defend and preserve constitutional rights.
All five members of the group have pleaded not guilty.
Rhodes previously told the FBI in an extensive interview obtained by The Epoch Times that the Oath Keepers “had no plans” to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and that he had warned members of the group on the afternoon of the incident, “Whatever you do, don’t try to enter the Capitol.”
“But, no, we’ve got no [expletive]—we had no plans. We’ve got no plans now,” Rhodes also told agents. “My only plan right now is my main push is to get people to take care of the local communities, get strong locally, and then purge out the weenies in the Republican Party. That’s our focus. The GOP is full of RINOs [Republicans in Name Only].”
Rhodes has repeatedly stated that the Oath Keepers went to Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6 to provide security for events and escort VIPs who were scheduled to speak at various events at the Capitol.
The members of the Oath Keepers on trial filed an emergency motion for a change of trial venue on Sept. 23, citing concerns that they would not be granted a fair trial because of negative media coverage of them.
That request was denied, despite the group citing research showing that nearly 70 percent of Washington respondents hold a negative view of the Oath Keepers.
Dozens of members or associates of the Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Three have pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges.
Another four Oath Keepers who have not pleaded guilty will go to trial on Nov. 29.
The leader of the Proud Boys group, Enrique Tarrio, is also facing charges of seditious conspiracy despite not being in Washington on Jan. 6. He is set to stand trial in December.
Nearly 900 people have been charged so far over the Jan. 6 breach and more than 400 have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial, The Associated Press reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times