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Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on the rarely used, Civil War-era charge of seditious conspiracy Tuesday for his role in the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, was also found guilty of the same charge by the Washington, D.C., jury after three days of deliberation.
It wasn’t a total win for the Department of Justice, though—Rhodes was acquitted on two other charges, and three co-defendants were acquitted of conspiracy counts. All five, however, were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding—Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
One of Rhodes’ lawyers pointed out that the defendants were acquitted on 11 of the 28 counts: “This is not a total victory for the government in any way shape or form,” he said
Seditious conspiracy is defined in the U.S. code thusly:
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. [Emphasis mine.]
Prosecutors argued that Rhodes and his followers conspired to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden and plotted to attack the U.S. Capitol. Oath Keepers stashed firearms at a Virginia motel, but never brought them to D.C. Rhodes argued that he and his followers showed up at the Capitol dressed in combat gear—to act as bodyguards and peacekeepers.
Much of the information the jury was shown involved texts, transcripts of phone calls, and reports of what people said. It was their thoughts and pronouncements more than their actions, in some cases, that got them convicted; for instance, Rhodes never actually entered the Capitol.
Defense attorneys contended that Rhodes and the other four Oath Keeper defendants were prone to violent rhetoric but took no effort to back up their words. They noted that they left their firearms arsenal at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Va., on the day of the riot. They traveled to Washington to perform security details for speakers at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally and related events, including figures like longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and event organizer Ali Alexander, who were among those in a Signal chat with Rhodes shown by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The convictions are the highest profile yet for crusading Merrick Garland and the Justice Department regarding Jan. 6. Rhodes faces a maximum 20 years for the seditious conspiracy count and a possible 60 years for all the charges. Next up: more conspiracy charges, this time for five other Oath Keepers and leaders of the Proud Boys. That trial will occur in December.
The Capitol riot was a bad day, and I’ve always maintained that those that attacked police officers should pay the price. However, the charge of “sedition” seems way out of line. A few guys were planning to overthrow the U.S. government—with no weapons? After the riot, the Oath Keepers celebrated at a local Olive Garden. Hardly sounds like a rebel group to me.
My colleague Nick Arama also pointed that there were several FBI informants among the Keepers—if they knew an insurrection was about to go down, why didn’t they do something?
American Greatness writer Julie Kelly has been a vocal critic of the DOJ’s draconian responses to Jan. 6. She points out the overwrought, dramatic writings of the department:
Lol these quotes are like a DOJ Hall of Shame collection pic.twitter.com/ORuGfLPqpa
— Julie Kelly 🇺🇸 (@julie_kelly2) November 30, 2022
Many of the rioters at the Capitol did bad things, and I’m not one to condone them. I don’t condone the George Floyd rioters either; however, we never see serious charges like this thrown at them. And to all those who would compare the riot to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor… that’s just the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.