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Trial of the Oath Keepers: The Justice Department rests on its historic seditious conspiracy case

Trial of the Oath Keepers: The Justice Department rests on its historic seditious conspiracy case



CNN

Federal prosecutors on Thursday rested their case against five alleged far-right leaders Oath Keepers militia group, ending the initial phase of the first mutiny conspiracy trial in more than a decade.

For more than four weeks, government witnesses — including several FBI agents, U.S. Capitol police officers, current and former members of the Oath and a Facebook representative who testified about social media posts glorifying violence — testified to support the Justice Department’s case that The five defendants planned to stop the election board counting on January 6, 2021.

According to prosecutors, the defendants Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell planned the armed rebellion long before the riot in the US Capitol.

Members of the group attended several more rallies in D.C. as “dry runs,” prosecutors say, and took action when the moment finally presented itself on Jan. 6, leading a crowd to storm the Capitol.

All five alleged members of the Oath Keepers have pleaded not guilty and will present evidence in their own defense in the coming weeks. Some of the defendants have offered to testify in their own defense, including Rhodes, who graduated from Yale Law School and founded a far-right group.

In presenting their case, prosecutors relied heavily on the group’s alleged chat messages about encrypted apps and their planning ahead of Jan. 6 — which their leader, Rhodes, reportedly saw as a tough constitutional deadline to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president.

Prosecutors also presented several secretly recorded discussions in which Rhodes and other defendants allegedly discussed the election and warned of “a fight here on US soil.”

Defense attorneys have addressed the idea that the group never had a specific plan for Jan. 6 and that Rhodes never instructed them to enter the Capitol.

Although one government associate, former Oath Keeper Graydon Young, called the plan “implicit,” no one testified that the group had an organized, coordinated plan for what happened that day.

The second argument relied on by the defense is twofold: members of the Oath Keepers were not violent during the riot and never called in the so-called “Rapid Response Force” they had set up at a hotel in Virginia with alleged arsenal of firearms. The defendants did little more than other persons who were charged only with misdemeanors, say the defense attorneys. The only difference is in their “rhetoric and arrogance”.



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