Jan. 6 sedition trial underway for Oath Keepers leader

Sep 26, 2022, 9:10 AM | Updated: Sep 27, 2022, 9:12 pm
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House i...

FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, June 25, 2017. Jury selection is expected to get underway Tuesday in one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol against the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of the founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy, one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Amid complaints by attorneys for Stewart Rhodes and the others that they can’t get a fair jury in Washington, the judge began winnowing the pool of potential jurors who will decide the fate of the first Jan. 6 defendants to stand trial on the rare Civil War-era charge.

The case against Rhodes and his Oath Keeper associates is the biggest test yet for the Justice Department in its massive Jan. 6 prosecution and is being heard in federal court not far from the Capitol. Seditious conspiracy can be difficult to prove, and the last guilty trial verdict was nearly 30 years ago.

Prosecutors have accused Rhodes of leading a weekslong plot to violently stop the transfer of presidential power from election-denier Donald Trump to Joe Biden that culminated with Oath Keepers dressed in battle gear storming the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Jury selection could take several days and the trial is expected to last at least five weeks.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on Tuesday denied defense attorney’s latest bid to move the trial out of Washington. The judge acknowledged that no juries have acquitted Jan. 6 defendants so far, but said that doesn’t tell him about “bias or inherent bias of jurors in the District of Columbia.”

The court already had dismissed more than two dozen potential jurors before Tuesday, including a journalist who had covered the events of Jan. 6. and someone else who described that day “one of the single most treasonous acts in the history of this country.”

The judge disqualified several other people Tuesday based on concerns about their impartiality. One man recalled the fear and “trauma” that he experienced on Jan. 6. Mehta also disqualified a woman who said she used to work as a House staffer on Capitol Hill and still has many friends who work there.

“I was really afraid for their lives that day,” she said.

Others excused from the jury pool include an attorney who questioned why hundreds of people have been charged with Capitol riot offenses when some of them appeared to him to be “just standing around.” Another was a man who said he raised money for Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and expressed negative impressions of the Oath Keepers

Phillip Linder, an attorney for Rhodes, urged the judge to disqualify another man who said he has a close family friend who works for a House member and recalled watching livestreamed video of the Capitol attack. The judge called it a “close call” but declined to disqualify the man who said he could set aside what he has heard about the Oath Keepers.

Hundreds of people have already been convicted of joining the mob that overran police barriers, beat officers and smashed windows, sending lawmakers fleeing and halting the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.

In a different court on Tuesday, a judge handed down one of the longest sentences so far in the riot. Kyle Young of Redfield, Iowa, was ordered to serve seven years in prison after he admitted to assaulting then-Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone.

Prosecutors will try to show that an Oath Keepers’ plot to stop Biden from becoming president started well before that, in fact before all the votes in the 2020 race had even been counted.

On trial with Rhodes, of Granbury Texas, are Thomas Caldwell, of Berryville, Virginia; Kenneth Harrelson, of Titusville, Florida; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio, and Kelly Meggs of Dunnellon, Florida.

Caldwell, a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer and the only defendant released from jail ahead of trial, walked with a cane as he slowly entered the courthouse wearing a dark suit.

Authorities say Rhodes, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and a Yale Law School graduate, spent weeks mobilizing his followers to prepare to take up arms to defend Trump. The Oath Keepers repeatedly wrote in chats about the prospect of violence, stockpiled guns and put “quick reaction force” teams on standby outside Washington to get weapons into the city quickly if needed, authorities say.

On Jan. 6, Oath Keepers were captured on camera storming the Capitol in military-style “stack” formation. Rhodes isn’t accused of going inside the Capitol, but phone records show he was communicating with Oath Keepers who did enter around the time of the riot and he was seen with members outside afterward.

Conviction for seditious conspiracy calls for up to 20 years behind bars. The last time prosecutors secured a seditious conspiracy conviction at trial was in 1995 in the case against Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks.

Three of Rhodes’ Oath Keepers followers have pleaded guilty to the charge and are likely to testify against him at trial. Rhodes’ lawyers have claimed those Oath Keepers were pressured into pleading guilty and are lying to get a better sentencing deal from the government.

On Tuesday, Rhodes’ lawyers asked the judge to bar prosecutors and witnesses from using words such as “antigovernment” or “extremists” in describing the Oath Keepers to jurors, saying in court documents that it would “add nothing but prejudice into what already promises to be an emotionally charged trial.”

Rhodes’ attorneys have suggested that his defense will focus on his belief that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act and call up a militia to support his bid to stay in power. Defense attorneys say Rhodes’ actions in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 were in preparation for what he believed would have been lawful orders from Trump under the Insurrection Act, but never came.

The defense has said that Oath Keepers were dressed in helmets and goggles to protect themselves from possible attacks from left-wing antifa activists and that the “quick reaction force” outside Washington was meant for defensive purposes if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act.

Nearly 900 people have been charged so far in the Jan. 6 riot and more than 400 have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial.

Sentences for the rioters so far have ranged from probation for low-level misdemeanor offenses to 10 years in prison for a retired New York City police officer who used a metal flagpole to assault an officer at the Capitol.

___

Associated Press journalist Mike Pesoli contributed to this report from Washington.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the Capitol riot at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.

More on Donald Trump-related investigations: https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

concede...
Associated Press

GOP’s Joe Kent contests results of Washington state race

Republican Joe Kent's campaign said Friday it intends to request a machine ballot recount of the counties within southwest Washington state's 3rd Congressional District.
14 hours ago
Gavel...
Associated Press

Case against man arrested in 1994 death of woman dismissed

Criminal charges against a man suspected in the 1994 murder of a Vancouver, Washington, woman have been dismissed.
14 hours ago
FILE - Power transmission lines deliver electricity to rural Orange County on Aug. 14, 2018, near H...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: US power grid has long faced terror threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators believe a shooting that damaged power substations in North Carolina was a crime. What they don’t have yet is a suspect or a motive. Whatever the reason, the shooting serves as a reminder of why experts have stressed the need to secure the U.S. power grid. Authorities have warned that the […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Newsbreak: Ex-Miami congressman arrested in Venezuela probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Miami congressman who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government has been arrested in connection to an ongoing federal criminal investigation, law enforcement officials said. David Rivera, a Republican who served from 2011 to 2013, was arrested Monday at Atlanta’s airport, said Marlene Rodriguez, spokesperson for the […]
2 days ago
FILE - General view of the Khalifa International Stadium ahead the World Cup round of 16 soccer mat...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: What’s post-World Cup future for Qatar’s stadiums

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The World Cup stadium was designed to leave a minimal footprint in the Qatari sand. It’s now due to be dismantled. Stadium 974 played host to seven matches, the last of which was Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in the round of 16 on Monday. The Qataris say the stadium […]
2 days ago
This combination of images shows promotional art for “Something from Tiffany’s,” a film premi...
Associated Press

New this week: Will Smith, ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘George & Tammy’

Here’s a collection curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists of what’s arriving on TV, streaming services and music and video game platforms this week. MOVIES — Will Smith’s comeback campaign is in full swing thanks to the new Antoine Fuqua movie “Emancipation,” which begins streaming on Apple TV+ on Friday. The film follows the […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Jan. 6 sedition trial underway for Oath Keepers leader