Oath Keepers leader found guilty of trying to overthrow US Government during January 6 capitol riot

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 – The leader of a far-right militia, Oath keepers has been found guilty of plotting to stop US President Joe Biden from taking office after the 2020 election.

A jury on Tuesday, November 29 found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy, a rare charge in the US, following a two-month trial.

He plotted an armed rebellion to stop the transfer of power from former president Donald Trump to current president Joe Biden, prosecutors said.

Three of those on trial with him – Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson – went inside the building during the attack.

Meggs was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy on Tuesday. Both Rhodes and Meggs now face a maximum 20-year sentence on the charges.

Harrelson, Watkins and a fifth member, Thomas Caldwell – were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy.

All five of the group members were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Rhodes, who prosecutors say acted as a “battlefield general” during the riots, was also found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings. He was acquitted of two other conspiracy counts.

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, stormed Congress on 6 January 2021 in a bid to thwart certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

So far around 900 people in nearly all 50 states have been arrested for taking part in the riot.

During the Oath Keepers trial, the court heard the defendants stashed dozens of weapons in a hotel room in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington DC, and planned to bring them into the city in the event of mass civil disorder.

Defence lawyers argued that the fact the weapons were never used or even brought into the city – bolstered their argument that the Oath Keepers were on a purely defensive mission, intending to protect protesters and keep the peace inside and outside the Capitol.

The jury also heard that Rhodes was taking phone calls and messages outside the Capitol while the riots were ongoing. Some messages seen by the court show Rhodes telling his followers to “rise up in insurrection”.

Speaking outside the courthouse following the verdict, lawyers for Rhodes said they were not pleased with the outcome saying they intend to appeal against the convictions.

This was the first conviction of seditious conspiracy in the US since 1995, when 10 Islamist militants were convicted for trying to plant bombs at New York City landmarks.

The Civil War-era charge was first enacted to stop residents of southern states from fighting against the US government.

In order to be convicted of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors must prove that two or more people conspired to “overthrow, put down or to destroy by force” the US government, or that they planned to use force to oppose US authority.

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