Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was convicted Tuesday by a federal jury of seditious conspiracy for his leading role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and his “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
The Washington, D.C. jury deliberated for three days before finding Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs guilty of seditious conspiracy, while three other accused—Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, retired Navy intelligence officer Thomas Caldwell, and Ohio militia leader Jessica Watkins—were acquitted of that charge.
Additionally, all five defendants were convicted of obstructing Congress as it convened to certify the results of the 2020 election. Both crimes are punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Seditious conspiracy convictions are exceedingly rare; in 1954 a group of Puerto Rican militants resisting U.S. colonization were found guilty of shooting up the Capitol earlier that year and given lengthy prison sentences that were later commuted by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Numerous militants acting in the name of Islam—including 10 men who planned a series of thwarted bombings in New York City in the 1990s—have also been convicted of the crime.
The Washington Post reports:
The indictment brought against Rhodes, 56, and other Oath Keepers associates in January was the first time the U.S. government leveled the historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy in the massive January 6 investigation. He is the highest-profile figure to face trial in connection with rioting by angry Trump supporters who injured scores of officers and ransacked offices, forcing the evacuation of lawmakers.
Rhodes and followers, dressed in combat-style gear, converged on the Capitol after staging an “arsenal” of weapons at nearby hotels, ready to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction, the government charged. Rhodes’ defense said he and co-defendants came to Washington as bodyguards and peacekeepers, bringing firearms only in case Trump met their demand to mobilize private militia to stop [Joe] Biden from becoming president.
“On January 6, 2021, the Oath Keepers stormed the U.S. Capitol, dressed in tactical gear and moving in military-style formations. The group attacked police lines and hunted for members of Congress,” Right Wing Watch managing editor Kristen Doerer said in a video posted on social media. “They were integral to the violent attack on the Capitol, and their attempts to undermine our democracy haven’t stopped since.”
As the Post noted:
The verdict in Rhodes’ case likely will be taken as a bellwether for two remaining January 6 seditious conspiracy trials set for December against five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys, including the longtime chairman Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio. Both Rhodes and Tarrio are highly visible leaders of the alt-right or far-right anti-government movements, and were highlighted at hearings probing the attack earlier this year by the House January 6 committee.
Around 900 people have been charged with federal crimes in connection with the January 6 insurrection. So far, about 450 of the defendants have pleaded guilty.
This story has been edited for length. Read the full story at Common Dreams.