Jury convicts Oath Keepers leader of seditious conspiracy

Source: Politico | November 29, 2022 | Kyle Cheney

Stewart Rhodes’ conviction is the most significant to emerge from the Justice Department’s investigation of the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

A jury on Tuesday convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes of masterminding a plot to violently subvert the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, finding that Rhodes entered into a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government.

The jury also convicted Rhodes ally Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy. But the jury acquitted three co-defendants — Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell — of joining Rhodes in that conspiracy. All five, however, were convicted on additional felony charges, including obstruction of Congress.

Rhodes’ conviction is the most significant to emerge from the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when dozens of Oath Keepers joined the mob that stormed the building and chased Congress, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence, into hiding.

Attorney General Merrick Garland hailed the jury’s decision as an important part of the process of imposing consequences on those who sought to block the certification of the election almost two years ago.

“Today the jury returned a verdict convicting all defendants of criminal conduct, including two Oath Keepers leaders for seditious conspiracy against the United States,” Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021. The prosecutors and agents on this case worked tirelessly, with extraordinary skill, and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has overseen a sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6 violence, also welcomed the verdicts.

“Breaking the law in an attempt to undermine the functioning of American democracy will not be tolerated,” Wray said.

Rhodes faces a maximum sentence of 60 years on all charges for which he was convicted, including 20 years for the seditious conspiracy count. Meggs faces an 86-year maximum sentence, Watkins faces 56 years, Harrelson faces 46 years, and Caldwell faces 40 years. Defendants are typically sentenced according to federal sentencing guidelines, which can result in terms well below the maximum.


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