The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes pleads not guilty to seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack on Capitol

Stewart Rhodes in 2017. (Susan Walsh/AP)
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Stewart Rhodes and nine alleged co-conspirators with the extremist Oath Keepers group pleaded not guilty Tuesday to seditious conspiracy and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

An 11th defendant arrested with Rhodes on Jan. 13, Edward Vallejo, was not present during a court hearing in the case Tuesday and will be arraigned later. Rhodes and those charged with him are accused of plotting violence to prevent the confirmation of Joe Biden’s election victory.

Rhodes, the group’s founder and the most prominent figure charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the attack, remains jailed pending a bond decision by a U.S. magistrate judge in Plano, Tex. The 56-year-old Army veteran and Yale Law School graduate was at the Capitol that day but has said he did not enter the building and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Rhodes said he was communicating at the Capitol on Jan. 6 with members of his group, part of the far-right anti-government movement, in an effort to “keep them out of trouble.”

The rioting at the Capitol came after a rally at the White House Ellipse at which President Donald Trump urged his supporters to march to Congress. Pro-Trump rioters assaulted more than 100 officers and stormed Capitol offices, halting the proceedings as lawmakers were evacuated from the House floor.

Read the indictment of Stewart Rhodes and other Oath Keeper adherents

A 48-page indictment alleges that Rhodes, Vallejo and nine previously charged defendants plotted “multiple ways to deploy force” to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by Inauguration Day 2021. The group conspired to organize into teams, undergo paramilitary training, coordinate travel, assemble and stage weapons and don combat and tactical gear before most joined the Capitol breach, prosecutors alleged.

All “were prepared to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction,” the 17-count indictment states. They were evidently drawn to Washington partly in the hope that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act, transforming the Oath Keepers into a kind of shock-troop militia to keep Trump in power in the White House despite the 2020 election result, according to court filings.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of D.C. set a July 11 trial date for the group, with a backup date of Sept. 26. The judge said seven previously indicted co-defendants will go to trial in April on separate charges of obstructing a congressional proceeding related to the joint session Jan. 6 to confirm the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

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