NATIONAL NEWS

Oath Keepers trial: ‘Armed rebellion’ plan, prosecutor says

Oct 3, 2022, 8:58 AM | Updated: Oct 12, 2022, 11:13 am
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Januar...
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors began Monday to lay out for jurors their case against the founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged in the most serious case to reach trial yet in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler delivered his an opening statement in Washington’s federal court in the trial of Stewart Rhodes and others charged with seditious conspiracy. They are accused of a weekslong plot to stop the transfer of power from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.

“Their goal was to stop by whatever means necessary the lawful transfer of presidential power, including by taking up arms against the United States government,” he said. “They concocted a plan for armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy.”

Defense attorneys will also get their first chance to address jurors, who were chosen last week after days of questioning over their feelings about the insurrection, Trump supporters and other matters. The judge on Monday denied another request from the defense attorneys to move the trial out of D.C., where they contend the jury pool is biased against them.

The stakes are high for the Justice Department, which last secured a seditious conspiracy conviction at trial nearly 30 years ago.

About 900 people have been charged and hundreds convicted in the Capitol attack. Rioters stormed past police barriers, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with officers, smashed windows and halted the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

But the Oath Keepers are the first to stand trial on seditious conspiracy, a rare Civil War-era charge that carries up to 20 years behind bars. The trial is expected to last several weeks.

Prosecutors will tell jurors that the insurrection for the antigovernment group was not a spontaneous outpouring of election-fueled rage but part of a drawn-out plot to stop Biden from entering the White House.

On trial with Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, are Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers; Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida Oath Keeper; Thomas Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer from Virginia; and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group. They face several other charges as well.

Authorities say Rhodes began plotting to overturn Biden’s victory just days after the election. Court records show the Oath Keepers repeatedly warning of the prospect of violence — or “a bloody, bloody civil war,” as Rhodes said in one call — if Biden were to become president.

By December, authorities say, Rhodes and the Oath Keepers had set their sights on Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6.

The Oath Keepers organized trainings — including one in “unconventional warfare” — and stashed weapons at a Virginia hotel so they could get them into the capital quickly if necessary, prosecutors say. Over several days in early January, Rhodes spent an $15,500 on guns, including an AR-platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other equipment, according to court documents.

On Jan. 6, Oath Keepers equipped with communication devices, helmets, vests and other battle gear were seen on camera storming the Capitol. Rhodes is not accused of going inside, but telephone records show he was communicating with Oath Keepers who did enter around the time of the riot and he was seen with members outside afterward.

And prosecutors say the plot didn’t end on Jan. 6. In the days between the riot and Biden’s inauguration, Rhodes spent more than $17,000 on firearm parts, magazines, ammunition and other items, prosecutors say. Around the time of the inauguration, Rhodes told others to organize local militias to oppose the Democratic administration, authorities say.

“Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming,” Rhodes wrote in a message the evening of Jan. 6.

Defense attorneys have said the Oath Keepers came to Washington only to provide security at events for figures such as Trump ally Roger Stone before the president’s big outdoor rally behind the White House. Rhodes has said there was no plan to attack the Capitol and that the members who did acted on their own.

Rhodes’ lawyers are poised to argue that jurors cannot find him guilty of seditious conspiracy because all the actions he took before Jan. 6 were in preparation for orders he anticipated from Trump — orders that never came.

Rhodes’ attorney has said that his client will eventually take the stand to argue that he believed Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act and call up a militia, which Rhodes had been calling on him to do to stop Biden from becoming president. Rhodes’ attorneys will argue that what prosecutors have alleged was an illegal conspiracy was merely lobbying the president to use a U.S. law.

Prosecutors say Rhodes’ own words show he was going to act regardless of what Trump did. In one message from December 2020, Rhodes wrote that Trump “needs to know that if he fails to act, then we will.”

The last successful seditious conspiracy case was against an Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, and nine followers convicted in a plot to blow up the United Nations, the FBI’s building, and two tunnels and a bridge linking New York and New Jersey.

___

For full coverage of the Capitol riot, go to https://www.apnews.com/capitol-siege

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were found ...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Mallika Kallingal, CNN

Moscow police say a sixth person on the lease isn’t involved in the Idaho student killings

The Moscow Police Department said on Friday that they don't believe a sixth person listed on the lease at the residence, where four University of Idaho students were killed last month, was involved in their deaths.
21 hours ago
FILE: This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pre...
AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press

US plans end to mpox public health emergency in January

The federal government plans to end in January the public health emergency it declared earlier this year after an outbreak of mpox left more than 29,000 people across the U.S. infected.
21 hours ago
FILE - This undated artist rending provided by the U.S. Air Force shows a U.S. Air Force graphic of...
TARA COPP Associated Press

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

The United States' newest nuclear stealth bomber is making its public debut after years of secret development. The new bomber is part of the Pentagon's answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.
21 hours ago
FILE: LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03:  The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen on August 3, ...
Shay O'Connor

Families of tourists found dead in Mexico Airbnb plan to file lawsuit

A news conference was held Thursday with the mothers who lost their children last month in Mexico to carbon monoxide poisoning at an Airbnb.
21 hours ago
F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Department of Justice on ...
ERIC TUCKER, Associated Press

FBI director raises national security concerns about TikTok

FBI Director Chris Wray is raising national security concerns about TikTok, warning Friday that control of the popular video sharing app is in the hands of a Chinese government “that doesn't share our values.”
21 hours ago
Flyer for killings of University of Idaho students...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Deaths of 4 Idaho students fuel online sleuths

The deaths of four University of Idaho students nearly three weeks ago has riled up thousands of would-be armchair sleuths, many of whom are posting speculation and unfounded rumors about the fatal stabbings online.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Oath Keepers trial: ‘Armed rebellion’ plan, prosecutor says