Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers militia group, and 10 other members or associates have been charged with “seditious conspiracy” in the Jan 6 protest, authorities said Thursday.
Who are 11 Oath Keepers indicted for “seditious conspiracy”?
According to court documents:
- Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas, who is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers; and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, are being charged for the first time in connection with events leading up to and including Jan. 6.
- In addition to Rhodes and Vallejo, those named in the indictment include nine previously charged defendants: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.
In one of the related cases, the original superseding indictment, charges remain pending against James Beeks, 49, of Orlando, Florida; Donovan Crowl, 51, of Cable, Ohio; William Isaacs, 22, of Kissimmee, Florida; Connie Meggs, 60, of Dunnellon, Florida; Sandra Parker, 63, of Morrow, Ohio; Bernie Parker, 71, of Morrow, Ohio, and Laura Steele, 53, of Thomasville, North Carolina. The other case charges Jonathan Walden, 57, of Birmingham, Alabama.
What is the indictment for Oath Keepers?
The AP reported:
The indictment alleges Oath Keepers for weeks discussed trying to overturn the election results and preparing for a siege by purchasing weapons and setting up battle plans. They repeatedly wrote in chats about the prospect of violence and the need, as Rhodes allegedly wrote in one text, “to scare the s—-out of” Congress. And on Jan. 6, the indictment alleges, they entered the Capitol building with the large crowds of rioters who stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, injuring dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.
Authorities have said the Oath Keepers and their associates worked as if they were going to war, discussing weapons and training. Days before the attack, one defendant suggested in a text message getting a boat to ferry weapons across the Potomac River to their “waiting arms,” prosecutors say.
On Jan. 6, several members, wearing camouflaged combat attire, were seen on camera shouldering their way through the crowd and into the Capitol in a military-style stack formation, authorities say.
The indictment against Rhodes alleges Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” that entered the Capitol. The first stack split up inside the building to separately go after the House and Senate. The second stack confronted officers inside the Capitol Rotunda, the indictment said. Outside Washington, the indictment alleges, the Oath Keepers had stationed two “quick reaction forces” that had guns “in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of power.”
What is the Oath Keepers?
Oath Keepers is an American far-right militia whose members state to be defending the Constitution of the United States. Research on their membership determined that two thirds of the Oath Keepers are former military or law enforcement, and one tenth are active duty military or law enforcement.
Most research determined the Oath Keeper membership to be approximately five thousand members, while leaked data showed Oath Keeper rosters claiming membership of 38,000.
In 2013, they instructed its members to form “Citizen Preservation” teams, which included militas, to operate in communities across the country meant to defend Americans against the government intentionally letting the country descend into chaos then declaring martial law and scrapping the constitution, stating that “They are preparing to control and contain us, and to shoot us, but not preparing to feed us.”
The organization states that full membership is open to “currently serving military, reserves, National Guard, police, fire-fighters, other first responders (i.e. State Guard, Sheriff Posse/Auxiliary, Search & Rescue, EMT, other medical 1st responders, etc.) AND veterans/former members of those services,” and that others who support the organization’s mission can become associate members.
Who is Stewart Rhodes?
Stewart Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009.
Rhodes has appeared in court documents for months as “Person One.”
Authorities say he held a GoToMeeting call days after the election, telling his followers to go to Washington and let then President Donald Trump know “that the people are behind him.” Rhodes told members they should be prepared to fight antifa and that some Oath Keepers should “stay on the outside” and be “prepared to go in armed” if necessary.
“We’re going to defend the president, the duly elected president, and we call on him to do what needs to be done to save our country. Because if you don’t guys, you’re going to be in a bloody, bloody civil war, and a bloody — you can call it an insurrection or you can call it a war or fight,” Rhodes said, according to court documents.
Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas, is the highest-ranking member of an group to be arrested in the deadly siege. He and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, were arrested on Thursday. The nine others were already facing criminal charges related to the attack.
Rhodes has said in interviews that there was no plan to storm the Capitol and that the members who did so went rogue. He also said that the 2020 election was stolen, while posts on the Oath Keepers website have depicted the group as a victim of political persecution.
Other defendants have argued in court that the only plan was to provide security at the rally or protect themselves against possible attacks from far-left antifa activists.
More than 70 defendants remain detained on “riot charges”. At least 183 defendants have pleaded “guilty to riot-related charges as of Jan. 11”. At least 78 of them have been sentenced, including 35 people who received jail or prison sentences or time already served, according to AP..