The founder of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia has been found guilty of inciting conspiracy for his role in last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Stewart Rhodes instigated a conspiracy to forcefully prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
During the eight-week trial, jurors heard Rhodes — a former Army paratrooper who wore a blindfold after accidentally shooting himself in the face with his own gun — rallied his followers to defend Trump .
Prosecutors showed the jury encrypted messages, audio recordings and surveillance video in which Rhodes spoke of the prospect of a “bloody” civil war and warned panel members that if Trump did not act, They may have to “rise up” to defeat Biden.
Rhodes, who attended Yale Law School but has been disbarred, spent thousands of dollars on an AR platform rifle, magazines, mounts, sights and other devices.
A video was played of the Oath Keepers courthouse where weapons were stored for “quick reaction forces” at a Virginia hotel, even though the weapons were never used.
Another transcript shows that Rhodes regretted not bringing a rifle to Washington, D.C., on the day of the riots, and said he could have hung U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from a lamppost.
On Jan. 6, the day of the unrest, oathkeepers in combat gear emerged from the crowd, while Rhodes remained outside like a “general reviewing troops on the battlefield,” a prosecutor said.
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Afterwards, he celebrated with other militia members at a nearby restaurant.
Along with Rhodes of Granbury, Texas, Kelly Meigs, the head of the Florida chapter of Vow Keepers, and three others are on trial.
It took the jury three days to find Rhodes and Meigs guilty of sedition conspiracy — a Civil War-era charge that hasn’t been used in trials since the 1995 prosecution of Islamist militants who planned to bomb New York City landmarks However, although three other oath keepers have pleaded guilty to the charges.
Rhodes was also convicted of obstructing official proceedings, but was acquitted of two other conspiracy charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
His lawyer, Ed Tapley, described the verdict as “a mixed bag”, adding: “We are grateful for the not guilty verdict but disappointed with the guilty verdict.
“There is no evidence that there was a plan to attack the Capitol.”
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In Rhodes’ defense, the lawyers sought to show that his remarks were a bluff and that the Oathkeepers had no plans to attack the Capitol before Jan. 6.
They said the Oathkeepers came to Washington, D.C., only to provide security for figures such as longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.
In his defense, Rhodes said he had no idea his followers would storm the Capitol, adding that those who did were behaving “stupidly” and outside the scope of their mission.
Rhodes founded Oath Keepers in 2009, which recruits current and former U.S. military personnel, law enforcement and other first responders.
In December, four other members of the group will stand trial for inciting conspiracy, as will members of another right-wing group, the Proud Boys, including its former president, Enrique Tarrio .