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Oath Keepers' Seditious Conspiracy Trial Set to Begin

Opening statements begin Monday in the consequential trial of the extremist group's leader Stewart Rhodes for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Oath Keepers' Seditious Conspiracy Trial Set to Begin

A jury of 12 members and four alternates was selected Thursday in the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members of the extremist group who face seditious conspiracy and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Opening statements are set for Monday, reports the Washington Post.

Jury seated in Oath Keepers Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy trial (Washington Post)

Excerpt from the Washington Post: Painstaking vetting over three days revealed a political and cultural clash that posed tests both for the Justice Department — led by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington — and defense attorneys for the leaders of the right-wing anti-government Oath Keepers, whose movement recruits members willing to prepare themselves for eventual battle to prevent federal tyranny. Rhodes and four co-defendants — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — have pleaded not guilty to felony charges including conspiring for weeks after the 2020 presidential election to unleash political violence to prevent President Biden’s swearing-in, culminating in the riot as Congress met to confirm the results. Rhodes and his co-defendants have said their actions were defensive, taken in anticipation of what they believed would be a lawful order from President Donald Trump deputizing armed groups under the Insurrection Act to stop Biden from becoming president.
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In one of the most high-profile prosecutions to emerge from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the stakes are high for the federal government, according to the USA Today. The prosecution seeks to make the case not only that Rhodes and the others helped lead the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, but that they did so as the apogee of a conspiracy they had been planning for months or years.

Oath Keepers trial: A 1800s-inspired defense meets most significant Jan. 6 prosecution yet (USA Today)

Excerpt from USA Today: Rhodes and others are accused of attempting to oppose by force the peaceful transition of presidential power by disrupting Congress as it certified the results of the 2020 election. That conspiracy, prosecutors allege, involved training, communication and firearms. While hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions and plea agreements have dozens of people to prison with typical sentences of just a few weeks, the Oath Keepers trial, scheduled to last six to seven weeks, could see the defendants serve decades in prison. The heavy sentences are not the only thing that makes this case more consequential. The trial almost feels like a referendum on the insurrection itself, and whatever the outcome, it will have reverberations across the landscape of American far-right extremism, said Jared Holt, a senior researcher at the think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and an expert on domestic extremism.
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As they cast the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol as an attack on American democracy, prosecutors will be able to draw on the extensive documentation of the attack, including thousands of hours of footage. They are also likely to point to Rhodes’ call for an armed "civil war" to keep former President Donald Trump in power, writes Time.

What to Know About the Oath Keepers' Seditious Conspiracy Trial (Time)

Excerpt from Time: Prosecutors allege that members of the Oath Keepers organized, trained, and equipped themselves months before Jan. 6, 2021. "We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit," Rhodes privately messaged a group of Oath Keepers in an encrypted app on Nov. 5, according to his indictment. On Jan. 6, the group of Oath Keepers went to the Capitol ready "to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms." They coordinated their actions on that day using encrypted messaging apps, hand signals, and walkie-talkies, and several were photographed wearing tactical vests, helmets, and other equipment as they breached the doors of the Capitol Rotunda. A 57-year-old former Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate, Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers in 2009. He focused on recruiting current and former military and law enforcement officers into the self-styled militia, which encouraged members to consider themselves as "the last line of defense against tyranny."
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