Oath Keepers leader and associates found guilty of multiple charges in seditious conspiracy case


Washington DC
CNN

A jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Oath Keeper leader Stuart Rhodes and accomplice Kelly Meggs on Tuesday of inciting conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While the jury was divided on some other charges against five alleged members of the right-wing militia, even the two guilty verdicts on the seditious conspiracy charges marked a major victory for the Justice Department and were elected by the House of Representatives to vindicate Commission to investigate the uprising. The historic criminal trial — the first of three seditious conspiracy cases to begin this year — is a major test of the department’s ability to hold accountable the Jan. 6 rioters.

Few charges have been brought for a century and a half as the statute and its predecessors have been documented. By using it against members of the Oath Keepers, the department said it considered the destruction of the Capitol a serious threat to the functioning of the U.S. government.

Prosecutors have argued that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was not simply an out-of-control political protest but a violent attack on the Democratic seat and an effort to oust Joe Biden from the Oval Office by any means necessary.

“The FBI will always uphold the rights of all citizens who peacefully engage in First Amendment protections, but we and our partners will continue to pursue the actions of those who engaged in unlawful conduct during the siege of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 responsibility,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement Tuesday.

The Justice Department said members of the Oathkeepers — Rhodes, Megs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrison and Thomas Caldwell — conspired to forcibly block presidential power from then-President Donald Trump. Trump peacefully handed over to Biden and plotted to attack the US Capitol.

Jurors considered 10 charges against the five defendants, including three counts of conspiracy, obstruction of Electoral College vote certification and document tampering. The defendants were convicted on multiple counts and all five were found guilty of obstructing official proceedings. Like the incitement to conspiracy charge, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

How long each defendant will serve remains to be seen, as Judge Amit Mehta could impose sentences of more than 20 years, or decide to serve them far less than the maximum sentence allowed.

Mehta told the court that the four defendants, including Rhodes, will remain in prison. Only one defendant, Caldwell, was released on pretrial release.

Sentencing hearings usually take place 90 days after sentencing.

Lawyers for the defendants said they were disappointed with the verdict but confident their client received a fair trial.

“I do believe they gave us a fair trial,” Rhode Island attorney James Lee Bright told reporters outside the courthouse. However, Bright added that he believes the verdict “could have been very different” if the trial had been moved outside of Washington, D.C.

Kelly Meigs, Stuart Rhodes, Kenneth Harrison, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell

The five defendants showed little emotion as the verdict was read in federal court. Rhodes, who founded Oath Keepers in 2009 and has led the organization since then, put his head down and wrote a letter to one of his lawyers.

Members of the prosecution congratulated each other after the jury left but declined to comment on the verdict. Rhodes, 57, stood outside the Capitol acting like a “general” on Jan. 6 as his followers stormed the building, they said.

Meigs, 53, is the leader of the Florida chapter of the Vow Keepers and, according to the government, led the notorious “stack” formation of the Vow Keepers inside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Harrison, 41, was allegedly Megs’ right-hand man on the day of the attack.

Watkins led his own militia in Ohio before joining the Oath Keepers after the 2020 election. The 40-year-old transgender allegedly entered the Capitol with Harrison and Megs and coordinated with Caldwell in the weeks before the attack, prosecutors said.

Caldwell, 68, testified that he was not a member of the Oathkeepers, who allegedly helped organize the armed quick-reaction force stationed outside Washington on Jan. 6. He also hosted oathkeepers at his Virginia farm and communicated with Watkins during the riot, prosecutors said.

The trial, which began more than seven weeks ago, included hundreds of messages, audio recordings and videos about the defendants’ revolutionary remarks following Biden’s 2020 presidential victory and their actions as they walked through the Capitol grounds during the riots. action.

Defense attorneys argued that there was no unified program among the groups, that the far-right Oathkeepers militia simply attended a “Stop the Stealing Rally” on the day of the riots, provided security details for the speakers, and that the inflammatory recordings accused were nothing more than ” Locker room talk”.

Here’s a breakdown of the jury’s verdict:

Article 1: Seditious Conspiracy

All five defendants are charged with planning to use force to prevent the legal transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6.

Rhodes: Guilty

megs: guilty

Harrison: Not guilty

Watkins: Not guilty

Caldwell: Not guilty

Count 2: Conspiracy to Obstruct Formal Proceedings

All of the defendants face charges that they conspired to prevent Congress from certifying Electoral College votes inside the Capitol.

Rhodes: not guilty

megs: guilty

Harrison: Not guilty

Watkins: Guilty

Caldwell: Not guilty

Article 3: Obstruction of due process

In addition to being charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official process, all were found guilty of actually committing the act.

Rhodes: Guilty

megs: guilty

Harrison: Guilty

Watkins: Guilty

Caldwell: Guilty

Count 4: Conspiring to prevent an officer from performing any duties

All five defendants worked together “by force, intimidation and threats … to prevent members of the United States Congress from performing any duties,” the indictment said, namely certifying the outcome of the 2020 election.

Rhodes: not guilty

megs: guilty

Harrison: Guilty

Watkins: Guilty

Caldwell: Not guilty

Count 5: Destruction of Government Property and Aiding and Abetting

Megs, Harrison and Watkins were among the crowd who stormed the gates of the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 6, according to prosecutors.

Meigs: Not guilty

Harrison: Not guilty

Watkins: Not guilty

Count 6: Civil disturbance and abetting

Jurors considered whether Watkins interfered with law enforcement when she allegedly joined a crowd near the Senate chamber, pushing and shouting at officials guarding the chamber door.

Watkins: Guilty

Articles 7, 8, 9 and 13: Alteration of Documents

Rhodes, Megs, Harrison and Caldwell all face charges for allegedly deleting messages and images from their phones or social media accounts after Jan. 6. Prosecutors also accused Rhodes of instructing other oath keepers to delete messages after the riot.

Rhodes: Guilty

megs: guilty

Harrison: Guilty

Caldwell: Guilty

This story was updated Tuesday with more details.

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