After three days, Rhodes was found guilty by the Washington, DC, jury of sedition. This trial, nearly two months long, exposed the far right extremist group’s attempts to keep Republican Donald Trump at the White House.
Two additional conspiracy charges against Rhodes were acquitted. Kelly Meggs was also convicted as a co-defendant. She led the Florida chapter of the antigovernment group. Three others were exonerated of this charge. All five defendants were found guilty by the jury of obstruction of a formal proceeding. This included certification by Congress of Biden’s electoral win.
While the verdict was mixed, it is a major milestone for the Justice Department. It will likely allow prosecutors the opportunity to accelerate their efforts in the future trials of other extremists charged with sedition. Rhodes and Meggs have been found guilty of the Civil War-era crime of seditious conspiracy for the first time in almost 30 years.
You could spend up to 20 consecutive years behind bars for this offense. It could inspire investigators, whose work is now broader than those who attacked Capitol and allows them to concentrate on other people involved in Trump’s attempts at overturning the 2020 election. U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, a veteran prosecutor to act as special counsel. This will oversee key aspects of the investigation into efforts to subvert election. It also oversees a separate investigation into Trump’s Florida estate Mar-a-Lago’s retention of classified documents. Garland declared after the verdict that the Justice Department is committed to holding those criminally responsible “for the assault on our democracy in January 2021.”
“Democracy relies on peaceful transfers of power. The defendants tried to block certification for the 2020 presidential election results,” Steven M. D’Antuono said in an email statement. He is the assistant director in charge at the FBI Washington Field Office.
“This case demonstrates that violence and force cannot be used against our justice system.”
The prosecution presented a number of encrypted messages, recordings, and surveillance video that proved Rhodes was preparing an armed rebellion to prevent Trump’s transfer of power. Jurors also heard Rhodes rally his supporters to support Trump and discuss the possibility of civil war. They also warned that the Oath Keepers might have to “rise in insurrection” against Trump if he didn’t act.
Defense attorneys claimed that prosecutors had misunderstood their clients’ words. They also insisted that Oath Keepers were only there to provide security for Roger Stone, a Trump ally. The defense focused heavily upon proving that Rhodes’ rhetoric was merely bluster, and that Oath Keepers did not plan to attack Capitol Hill before Jan. 6. James Lee Bright, defense lawyer, stated that Rhodes intends on appealing. Ed Tarpley from Rhodes described the verdict to be a “mixed bags” and added, “This victory is not complete for the government in any form, shape, or manner.”
Tarpley stated, “We believe we have presented a case that demonstrated through evidence and testimony Mr. Rhodes did no crime of seditious conspiracies.” Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson, both of Granbury Texas, were also on trial. Thomas Caldwell, an ex-Navy intelligence officer from Virginia, was also on the docket. Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia, was also on trial.
Caldwell was convicted in two cases and acquitted in three others. David Fischer, his attorney, described Caldwell’s verdict as a major victory for his client, and a significant defeat for the Justice Department. He also stated that he would appeal both convictions.
The next week will see the beginning of juror selection for a second Oath Keeper facing seditious conspiracy accusations. The sedition case against Enrique Tarrio, former national chairman of the Proud Boys will also be brought up in December. In a rare act, Rhodes stood up to testify before jurors that there was no plan of attacking the Capitol. He also stated that those who were present inside the Capitol went rogue.
Rhodes said that he did not know his followers would join the mob and storm Capitol. He was also upset to learn that some did. Rhodes stated that they were acting foolishly and not in their mission.
Kathryn Rakoczy, assistant U.S. Attorney, said that the Capitol attack was “a means to an end” for Oath Keepers during her closing argument.
Jurors heard that Rhodes spent thousands of money on an AR-platform rifle and magazines, as well as sights, sights, and other equipment, on his way from Virginia to Washington before the riot. They viewed surveillance footage from the Virginia hotel, where Oath Keepers kept weapons for “quick react force” teams. Prosecutors claimed that they were prepared to quickly get weapons into the capital.
The weapons were never used. Oath keepers in combat gear were seen on Jan. 6 shouldering their way through crowds and into the Capitol. According to a prosecutor, Rhodes was seen outside “generally surveying his troops at the battlefield” while he remained there. Prosecutors claim that Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers went out to celebrate after the riot.
The trial revealed details about Rhodes’ attempts to pressure Trump in order to keep him in White House. This was in the weeks prior to Jan. 6. Rhodes posted the following message shortly after the election in a group chat, which included Stone known as “FOS” or Friends of Stone. “So, will you step up to push Trump into taking decisive action?”
Another man testified that Rhodes attempted to persuade him, after the riot ended, to relay a message that encouraged Trump not to lose his fight for power. The intermediary — a man that told jurors he had a way to get to Trump — recorded the meeting with Rhodes. He then went to the FBI to give the message to Trump.
According to a recording that Rhodes made during the meeting, Rhodes said, “If he isn’t going to do right and he just gonna let his self be removed illegally then why should we have brought rifles?” “We should have fixed the problem right away. Rhodes said that she would hang Nancy Pelosi from the lamppost.
Three other Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty before to seditious plot. This conviction was not obtained by the Justice Department since 1995, when Islamic militants plotted to attack New York City landmarks.