Oath Keepers convicted of sedition in Jan.6 investigation

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, an American anti-government militia, has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other offenses in connection with the Jan. 6 protest on the US Capitol.

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The verdicts against Rhodes and four co-defendants, after three days of deliberations by the 12-member jury, came in the highest-profile trial so far to emerge from the Jan. 6 investigation.

During an eight-week trial, Rhodes was accused by prosecutors of plotting to use force to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory over Republican Donald Trump. Rhodes was convicted on three counts and acquitted on two.

Kelly Meggs, one of his co-defendants, was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy, while Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell were acquitted.

With a few mixed verdicts on other charges, all five defendants were convicted of obstruction of an official proceeding - the congressional certification of election results. A sentence of up to 20 years in prison is imposed for seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Two more high-profile trials relating to the investigation are scheduled to begin next month. Four other Oath Keepers members face seditious conspiracy charges, as do members of the right-wing Proud Boys group, including its former chairman Enrique Tarrio.

An attorney for Rhodes said he thinks the verdict will inform how the Justice Department proceeds with the other seditious conspiracy cases.

According to Rhodes' attorney, the DOJ is likely to proceed with all cases in a similar manner based on the return in Rhodes' case.

Among the roughly 900 accused of the attack, Rhodes is one of the most prominent. Besides Rhodes, Meggs, who heads the Oath Keepers' Florida chapter, was the only defendant in this case who played a leadership role.

The Oath Keepers

Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers in 2009, a group that encourages its members to disobey orders which they believe would violate the US Constitution. It consists of current and retired military members, law enforcement officers, and first responders. Several of its members have participated in protests and political events around the country, and some turned up at the BLM protests following the death of George Floyd during criminal arrest.

Merrick Garland, the attorney general, said the Justice Department was committed to holding criminally responsible parties accountable.

Ed Tarpley, Rhodes' lawyer, called the verdicts a “mixed bag”; while they are thankful for the not guilty verdicts, they are disappointed in the guilty verdicts. The lawyer said no evidence was presented to indicate a plan to attack the Capitol.

During the trial, 50 witnesses testified, including Rhodes and two of his co-defendants. Although Watkins admitted to impeding police officers protecting the Capitol, they denied plotting any attack or trying to block Congress from certifying the election results.

Attorneys for both Harrelson and Rhodes told reporters after the trial they intend to appeal the convictions.