An attorney for the Oath Keepers who was with the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was arrested Thursday in Texas on charges related to the attack on Congress, federal prosecutors announced.
She made an initial appearance Thursday afternoon before a federal judge in Austin where she was told she was eligible for court-appointed counsel and released on her own recognizance. SoRelle is scheduled to have a virtual hearing in D.C. on Tuesday.
A bare-bones, three-page indictment alleges that SoRelle in December 2020 and January 2021 “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to corruptly obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding, that is, Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote.”
The charging paper accuses SoRelle of aiding and abetting others to do the same on Jan. 6, 2021, and of persuading others to withhold or destroy records.
In past court filings, federal prosecutors have cast SoRelle as a close adviser at key moments to Rhodes, one of about 20 alleged leaders or members of two far-right extremist groups who face the historically rare charge of seditious conspiracy. The charge accuses Oath Keepers and Proud Boys associates of conspiring to use force to oppose the authority of the federal government as well as to oppose the lawful transfer of power to President Biden in attacking the U.S. Capitol.
SoRelle was not charged with seditious conspiracy, but with a separate obstruction of an official proceeding count that the government has lodged against other members of those two groups and nearly 300 Jan. 6 defendants overall.
An attorney for SoRelle could not immediately be reached for comment. On Twitter later Thursday, SoRelle posted: “Lesson learned. Lie, never tell the truth and comply with the lockdowns and bow to the oligarchs.”
In an interview with a Washington Post reporter last year in Fort Worth, SoRelle characterized what she personally experienced at the Capitol on Jan. 6 as largely peaceful with protesters being let in the building by police. SoRelle said she watched authorities open doors and protesters enter the Capitol from atop a planter box that she had climbed to get a view over the crowd. She also said Rhodes and another Oath Keeper at one point pulled her away as a wave of people pushed toward opened doors.
U.S. authorities have alleged that members of the Oath Keepers coordinated travel, equipment and firearms and stashed weapons outside Washington, ready “to answer Rhodes’ call to take up arms at Rhodes’ direction.”
In plea papers, cooperating Oath Keepers defendants have admitted to participating in a group that forced entry through the East Capitol Rotunda doors after marching single file in a stack up the steps wearing camouflage vests, helmets, goggles and Oath Keepers insignia.
Court filings say Rhodes exchanged numerous calls with a deputy and with alleged participants who earlier guarded Roger Stone. Many of those who entered the Capitol met up with Rhodes and SoRelle after exiting the building at about 4 p.m. that day, according to court filings.
Rhodes and remaining co-defendants have pleaded not guilty, and Rhodes in an interview with The Post in March 2021 said there was no plan to breach the Capitol. He has said the group staged firearms in Northern Virginia in case it was needed as a “quick reaction force” if President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act and mobilized armed groups to keep himself in office.
SoRelle also emerged in court filings as a point of contact between Rhodes and Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys, on the eve of the Jan. 6 breach. Tarrio has been charged with seditious conspiracy along with four lieutenants. Video released in Tarrio’s case by his defense attorneys and U.S. prosecutors traced his movements in D.C., including his meeting in an underground parking garage with Rhodes on Jan. 5.
That evening Tarrio shook hands and spoke with Rhodes and SoRelle in the Hall of the States Building garage near Capitol Hill. Also present were leaders of two right-wing pro-Trump groups: Joshua Macias, a scheduled speaker the following day, and Bianca Gracia, a Jan. 6 event organizer with White House ties. When Tarrio introduced himself on camera to Rhodes and SoRelle, the camera crew was told to step away and did not capture audio of any substantive discussions in publicly released clips.
At a May bond hearing, Tarrio attorney Nayib Hassan said that Tarrio coincidentally met Rhodes while looking for an attorney to represent him after his arrest by D.C. police for a separate incident — the burning of a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a D.C. church in December 2020 after a different pro-Trump rally — to which he later pleaded guilty and completed a four-month jail term.
“I just need to talk to her. This guy has a good attorney, and it was a 2A [Second Amendment] attorney who got this guy off,” Tarrio says on camera as he enters the garage, without elaborating.
Separately, SoRelle has emerged as Rhodes’s point of contact with other supporters of Trump seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Another Oath Keepers defendant this spring made public the transcript of a Nov. 9, 2020, videoconference call in which Rhodes has SoRelle debrief members on “multiple pods working” to challenge Biden’s election victory. SoRelle said those in the pods included the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee, QAnon supporters and the legal team of Rudy Giuliani.
SoRelle, an active social media commentator, tweeting false claims aligned with the QAnon movement about the U.S. government, wrote Monday: “Dear government, those within multiple agencies are all trying to destroy you. Every side, you are surrounded by our enemies. We need you to fight for us, not against us.”
Dear government, those within multiple agencies are all trying to destroy you. Every side, you are surrounded by our enemies. We need you to fight for us, not against us.— Kellye SoRelle, Attorney (@kellyesorelle) August 30, 2022
The timing of Thursday’s arrest before a long Labor Day weekend comes almost a year after SoRelle said the FBI seized an iPhone from her. A related search warrant stated that investigators are continuing to probe whether Rhodes’s associates conspired to subvert the election results or violate seditious conspiracy laws, as first reported by Mother Jones.
The move came before Rhodes was charged last January and was seen as a milestone in the Justice Department probe of the Capitol siege, which required approval to search communications of an attorney. The approval was required because such searches can scoop up material subject to attorney-client privilege and off-limits to prosecutors because of the bedrock U.S. legal principle that lawyers keep confidential what they are told by their clients.
Prosecutors or a court typically set up a “filter review” by a third-party attorney or lawyers not part of the investigation to go through such materials.
A separate June superseding indictment against Rhodes alleged he aided and abetted the destruction of evidence two days after the Capitol breach by encouraging co-conspirators to delete media, files and communications showing their involvement.
On Thursday morning, Trump announced that he would issue full pardons and a government apology to Capitol riot defendants if he runs for re-election in 2024 and wins. By coincidence, Trump similarly spoke out in defense of Jan. 6 defendants days after Rhodes was indicted in January at a rally in Arizona, attacking the U.S. Justice Department’s “appalling persecution of political prisoners.”
An earlier version of this story misstated the day SoRelle sent one of her tweets. This version has been corrected.
Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.