Jury selection will begin Tuesday for the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four other members of the right-wing militia group charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 riots in the US Capitol.
Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell are charged with conspiracy to “oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power,” the government statement said. chargewhich was unsealed earlier this year.
The greatest burden seditious conspiracy — trying to “forcibly overthrow, bring down, or destroy the government of the United States” — carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
All five have pleaded not guilty and Rhodes’ lawyers have indicated that he intends to allege that he was not planning anything illegal. — he was simply trying to prepare his members to take action if then-President Donald Trump activated “militias” by invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807.
“They weren’t there to storm the Capitol, to stop certification, to take over the government,” Rhodes’ lawyers said. argued in court papers. “They were waiting for President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.”
Prosecutors said the alleged conspiracy began in early November 2020, when it became clear that Trump had lost the presidential election. “We won’t get through this without a civil war. It’s too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit,” Rhodes wrote in a coded group chat on Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the election, according to the charge.
Prosecutors said Rhodes helped organize “fast reaction forces”, some of them at a hotel in nearby Virginia.
“Rhodes has been at the center of the incendiary conspiracy – orchestrating plans to use force, recruiting and funding conspirators, buying weapons and tactical equipment, inciting support and action, and trying to cover up his and other conspirators’ crimes.” the prosecutors said. a judicial file.
Rhodes unsuccessfully tried to delay the trial for 90 days this month, arguing that he had a “full or near-complete communication failurewith his attorneys and wanted a new attorney to represent him. U.S. District Judge presiding over the case in Washington, DC, Amit Mehta, turned down the request, but said the new attorney could join the Rhodes defense team.
“We can make space. We have enough tables,” Mehta said during a court hearing on Sept. 7.
A pool of about 150 jurors have already completed questionnaires and answered questions that include what they know about the Oath Keepers and the Jan. 6, 2021 riots, whether they or anyone close to them were in the Capitol that day, and whether they’ve got the congressional hearings on the attack. The pool will begin to shrink on Tuesday as potential jurors face questions from prosecutors and attorneys for the defendants.
The process is expected to take approximately six weeks.