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Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of sedition in US Capitol attack plot


WASHINGTON: Two far-right leaders Oath keeper militia, including the founder Stewart Rhodesconvicted rebellion on Tuesday in the most famous case stemming from the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
A federal grand jury has convicted Rhodes, 57, and Kelly Meggs, 53, leaders of the Florida militia division, of rarely prosecuted conspiracy to sedition, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. .
A 12-person jury acquitted three other members of the Oath-Keepers – Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell – who faced sedition charges, but convicted them of their crimes. lesser offenses such as obstruction of a formal proceeding.
Rhodes, a blindfolded military veteran and Yale law school graduate, and four other members of the group are accused of conspiring to help Trump stay in power and overturn the results of the 2020 Democratic presidential election. owner Joe Biden won.
During the nearly two-week trial in Washington, prosecutors said the oath-holders “drawn a plan for an armed insurrection… plot against the United States government by force of force.” .”
Hundreds of Trump supporters have been arrested for their role in the attack on Congress but they face less serious charges than those against Rhodes and other Oath-holders.
The jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict in what the defendants described as a political trial conducted by the Biden administration against Trump supporters who announced the plan. Run for re-election to the White House in 2024.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland this month appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Trump’s own efforts to overturn the election results and his supporters’ attack on Congress. he.
The special counsel will also take over the Justice Department’s investigation into a trove of classified government documents seized during the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in August.
A verdict of not guilty on sedition charges for all five defendants would be a setback for the Justice Department, which plans to try members of the Proud Boys, another right-wing extremist group, on the same charges. name.
Democratic congressman David Cicilline welcomed the ruling, calling it “an important victory for democracy and the rule of law.”
Edward Tarpley, Rhodes’ attorney, said he was “disappointed”.
“No evidence has been presented to suggest that there is a plan to attack the Capitol,” Tarpley told reporters.
During the trial, prosecutors accused the Oath-holders of storing weapons at a hotel near Washington and participating in a mob that stormed the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying their election victory. Biden.
Prosecutors showed videos of the attack by dozens of group members dressed in military-style combat gear.
Prosecutors also showed grand jury text messages between Rhodes and his followers calling for action if Trump himself fails to act to prevent Biden’s confirmation as the next president.
Prosecutors said Rhodes did not personally enter the Capitol but directed his followers like a field general.
Rhodes testified in the trial and denied that his team planned to attack the congressional complex, saying they came to Washington solely to provide security for the protests.
“On that day, entering the Capitol was not part of our mission,” said Rhodes.
In military terms, he admits that some of the Oath-Keepers had “fallen off duty” and entered the building.
He said Meggs, the head of the Florida chapter, was “an idiot” for bringing his men inside.
Rhodes told the court: “I thought it was foolish to enter the Capitol. It opened the door to political persecution against us. And that’s where we are.”

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