Historic trial for Oath Keepers chief and his prime lieutenants over January 6 set to start | CNN Politics


2022-09-27 17:12:51


The Justice Division this week will argue at trial for the primary time in over a decade {that a} group of Individuals plotted to violently oppose the US authorities.

The historic trial of Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes and 4 of his prime lieutenants will present a deep dive right into a far right-wing militia and extremist motion as they allegedly deliberate to cease Joe Biden from changing into president in January 2021 by any means obligatory.

Federal prosecutors intend to show that the plan included a reconnaissance journey to Washington, DC, staging an armed “fast response drive” at a lodge throughout the Potomac River, utilizing a army formation to breach the US Capitol, and, for some defendants, looking for lawmakers inside.

The landmark indictment is probably the most aggressive and politically fraught case that prosecutors have introduced in opposition to a bunch of alleged rioters thus far and marked a dramatic change within the division’s strategy to prosecuting January 6 defendants.

That is the primary of three sedition trials scheduled to happen this yr.

The case additionally comes with hefty political ramifications. When it was unsealed in January 2022, the indictment sparked an outcry from some Trump supporters and figureheads on the proper who claimed that the fees had been trumped up or politically motivated, and the Justice Division as a complete has come beneath elevated hearth from some on the political proper for its investigations into these aligned with the previous president.

The trial in opposition to the Oath Keepers will start on Tuesday with jury choice in DC federal courtroom.

All 5 defendants have pleaded not responsible to the indictment and face a most sentence of 20 years in a federal jail.

Stewart Rhodes, 57, is a former Military paratrooper and graduate of Yale Legislation College. Rhodes, who’s from Texas, based the Oath Keepers in 2009 and has led the militia ever since.

Kelly Meggs, 53, is the chief of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers. Meggs glided by the moniker “Gator 1.”

Jessica Watkins, 40, is an Military veteran and bar proprietor from Ohio. Watkins, who served in Afghanistan, was a “commander” of her personal Ohio primarily based militia utilizing the moniker “Cap.”

Kenneth Harrelson, 41, is a former Military sergeant and Oath Keepers chief from Florida. Harrelson used the moniker “Gator 6.”

Thomas Caldwell, 68, of Virginia, is a former lieutenant commander within the Navy and FBI worker. Caldwell glided by the monikers “CAG” and “Spy.” He has denied he’s a member of the Oath Keepers.

To make their case, prosecutors will lay out an in depth retelling of January 6 and the months main as much as the riot. The story will depend on greater than 40 witnesses, prosecutors mentioned in courtroom, together with FBI brokers, Capitol Law enforcement officials, journalists and confidential human sources.

Additionally they plan to make use of recordings from the group of planning conferences main as much as January 6 and walkie-talkie communications through the siege.

Taken collectively, prosecutors consider the proof will lay out a classy plan by the Oath Keepers that started to take form simply days after the 2020 election.

In a November 5, 2020, Sign message, Rhodes allegedly warned the Oath Keepers that “we aren’t going via this with out civil struggle. Too late for that. Put together your thoughts, physique and spirit.” Lower than one week later, in line with courtroom paperwork, Caldwell traveled to Washington for a reconnaissance journey and reported his findings again to Rhodes.

Rhodes, Meggs, Watkins, Harrelson and Caldwell coordinated for a number of weeks, prosecutors say, together with attending paramilitary coaching camps and renting rooms at a Virginia lodge to stash weapons and different weapons in case they had been wanted in Washington.

On January 6, the Oath Keepers donned fight and tactical gear, and allegedly stationed themselves across the nation’s capital – some on the Capitol, others offering safety and a 3rd group ready with a cache of weapons in Virginia.

That afternoon, prosecutors allege that the group converged on the Capitol at Rhodes’ course. Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins, who had been in a army “stack” formation with different Oath Keepers, pushed previous law enforcement officials and into the constructing, courtroom paperwork say. As Watkins tried to push previous officers guarding the hallway to the Senate Chamber, prosecutors say Meggs, Harrelson, and different Oath Keepers broke off in an unsuccessful seek for Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Rhodes directed the group from exterior, prosecutors say. Caldwell can be not alleged to have entered the constructing.

After the riot, Rhodes and others went to Olive Backyard to rejoice the assault and “talk about subsequent steps,” in line with courtroom paperwork. By Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, Rhodes allegedly instructed associates to prepare native militias to oppose the Biden administration.

For his or her half, attorneys for the 5 defendants have argued that the Oath Keepers got here to Washington to behave as “peacekeepers” if riots broke out between Trump supporters and Antifa. Some members went contained in the Capitol to help law enforcement officials, attorneys for the defendants have contended.

Although it isn’t clear how the trial will have an effect on the way forward for the Oath Keepers, consultants say the prosecution alone has severely affected the group.

“The media, the general public, after which the authorized accountability that’s been introduced down at Oath Keepers has had extremely detrimental results that group and fairly frankly, has almost decimated it,” Rachel Carroll Rivas, a senior analysis analyst on the Southern Poverty Legislation Middle who research extremism, instructed CNN.

As a result of the group lacked a sturdy management construction, Rivas mentioned, the destiny of the group rose and fell with Rhodes. Rhodes has been in federal custody since his arrest in January, and Rivas mentioned that “eradicating him from the flexibility to be a pacesetter in that group, it has had a big impact.”

Whatever the consequence of the case the specter of home extremism stays giant within the US, Jon Lewis, a analysis fellow on the program on extremism at George Washington College, instructed CNN.

“The risk immediately has metastasized far past particular person teams,” Lewis mentioned. “The life or demise of the Oath Keepers … doesn’t change the contours of the risk immediately.”

“I believe what’s extra was way more regarding from our perspective, is that the rhetoric that impressed them, the narratives that they push ahead haven’t gone away. Hate has solely gotten stronger,” Lewis mentioned.

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