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Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was found guilty of seditious conspiracy on Tuesday for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and his involvement in the plot to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
A jury in Washington, DC, found Rhodes, as well as the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs, guilty of sedition after three days of deliberations in the nearly two-month-long trial of five leaders and associates of the right-wing militia group.
Rhodes and Meggs are the first people since 1995 to be found guilty by a jury of seditious conspiracy, which was first enacted after the Civil War. Federal prosecutors last tried to pursue the sedition charges in a 2010 indictment involving members of a militant group, but they were later acquitted.
Seditious conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The three other codefendants tried alongside Rhodes — Kenneth Harrelson, Thomas Caldwell, and Jessica Watkins — were cleared of the seditious conspiracy charge, the Associated Press reported. Rhodes was also acquitted of two other conspiracy charges. All five of the defendants were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding.
Rhodes’ lawyer said on Tuesday that he plans to appeal the conviction, NBC News reported.
According to the original indictment, authorities claimed that Rhodes conspired “to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power” by stopping the certification of the Electoral College on Jan. 6.
Prosecutors said that he and the other defendants “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, DC, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction.”
Three of the defendants — Watkins, Meggs, and Harrelson — went inside the Capitol during the rioting.
During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury — which was made up of seven men and five women — hundreds of messages, audio clips, and videos of the defendants’ conversations after Biden’s 2020 victory.
Prosecutors made the case that Rhodes began preparing an armed rebellion shortly after the 2020 election to stop the transfer of presidential power. They argued that Rhodes “spearheaded a conspiracy” to prevent certification of the 2020 presidential election by encouraging the Oath Keepers to gather in Washington, DC, and to stash weapons and vehicles nearby for the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill protests that ended in a riot.
According to court documents, Rhodes spent around $40,000 on weapons and accessories prior to and following Jan. 6, and attempted to destroy evidence of his involvement afterward.
Rhodes, 57 — whose first name is Elmer but who goes by his middle name — founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 and has led the group ever since.
The former Army paratrooper and graduate of Yale Law School who was later disbarred is known for the distinctive patch that he wears to cover up an eye he lost from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Originally from Nevada, Rhodes worked briefly for former member of Congress Ron Paul and rose to prominence as a frequent guest on Alex Jones’ Infowars show.
Over the past decade, Rhodes has led the Oath Keepers into a series of tense political confrontations, including in 2014 between cattle ranchers and federal law enforcement in southern Nevada, known as the Bundy standoff.
Rhodes became aligned with former president Donald Trump in the lead-up to and wake of the 2020 election, as he cast doubt on the results of the election and called upon Oath Keepers to attend protests and gather in Washington on Jan. 6.
So far, about 900 people have been charged with federal crimes for their behavior during the insurrection, the Associated Press reported. Three other Oath Keepers have previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.
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