The Leader Of A Far-Right Militia Found Guilty
The leader of a far-right militia found guilty of trying to stop US Vice President Joe Biden from becoming president after the 2020 election. After a two-month trial, a jury found Stewart Rhodes guilty of the rare charge of seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors say he planned an armed revolt to stop the power from going from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Four more people were on trial with him for the riots in the Capitol in 2021.
Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, and Kenneth Harrelson, three of the group, went inside the building while the attack was happening. Tuesday, Meggs was also found guilty of plotting to make trouble for the government. Rhodes and Meggs are now both facing charges that could send them to prison for up to 20 years.
Harrelson, Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, who was the fifth person in the group, were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy. All five people in the group were found to have blocked an official proceeding.
Prosecutors say Rhodes was a "battlefield general" during the riots, and he was also found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings. He was found not guilty of two other counts of conspiracy. The jury talked about the case for three full days before coming to a decision.
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After the verdict, Rhodes's lawyers said they weren't happy with it, but it wasn't a clear win for the prosecution either, they said outside the courthouse.
"It's a mixed bag," said defense attorney Edward Tarpley, adding that he was glad the jury found the defendants not guilty on some counts. They plan to fight the convictions in court.
This was the first time a group of people in the US was found guilty of trying to overthrow the government since 1995, when 10 Islamist militants were found guilty of trying to plant bombs at famous places in New York City.
During the Civil War, the charge was made so that people from the south wouldn't fight against the US government. To be found guilty of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors must show that two or more people worked together to "overthrow, put down, or destroy by force" the US government, or that they planned to use force to oppose US authority.
Alan Rozenshtein, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and a former lawyer for the US Department of Justice, said that Rhodes' conviction was important because it shows that a seditious conspiracy charge is "a viable and legal path for punishing the most serious anti-democratic conduct" in the country.
He also said that the fact that the jury came to different decisions showed that they were able to do their jobs. Mr. Rozenshtein said that the verdict gave the justice department more confidence to go after more people involved in the Capitol riots.
On January 6, 2021, Republicans who supported then-President Donald Trump tried to stop the election results from being certified for Joe Biden. So far, about 900 people have been arrested in almost all 50 states for taking part in the riot.
Fallout after Oath Keepers leader found guilty of sedition l GMA
During the Oath Keepers trial, the court heard that the defendants hid dozens of weapons in a hotel room in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. They planned to bring the weapons into the city if there was a lot of civil unrest.
Lawyers for the defense said that the fact that the weapons were never used or even brought into the city showed that the Oath Keepers were only there to protect protesters and keep the peace in and around the Capitol.
The jury also heard that Rhodes was taking phone calls and messages outside the Capitol while the riots were going on. The court saw some messages in which Rhodes told his followers to "rise up in insurrection."
Rhodes, a lawyer who used to be in the US Army and went to Yale, started the Oath Keepers. Over the past 10 years, members have shown up at a number of protests and armed standoffs all over the country.
Two of the defendants, Meggs and Harrelson, are from Florida, while Watkins and Caldwell are from Ohio and Virginia, respectively. He was born in Texas. Later this year, more Oath Keepers members and members of another far-right group called the Proud Boys will go on trial.
In the last century, another famous attack on the US Capitol led to seditious conspiracy convictions. In 1954, four nationalists from the US territory of Puerto Rico shot into the House of Representatives, hurting several lawmakers. More than a dozen other people in the group who didn't attack were also found guilty of sedition.