Legal risk of sedition conspiracy against Oath Keepers

The incendiary conspiracy against members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group represents the government’s most daring attempt to prosecute those who attacked the U.S. Capitol, but calls for rarely used charges. That comes with a great deal of risk.

Still, legal experts who reviewed the indictment opened last week against Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and 10 others said prosecutors said the defendant would prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power. He said he was likely to win the conviction for alleging that he was exercising his power.

It is difficult to prove the Civil War accusation, and scholars say they were keen to apply it for centuries and did not trust its use.


Experts who examined the indictments against 11 members of the Orskipers and their peers discussed their plans in an encrypted chat, traveled from all over the country to the national capital, and were organized into teams. A military tactic that stated that the government’s case was upheld by a detailed claim that it was used, outside Washington in case it felt necessary during the January 6, 2021 riots and kept in touch with each other. I hid my weapon in.

Carlton Larson, a professor of law at the University of California, Riverside, who is an expert in rebellion, said:

In the weeks leading up to the riots, the indictment discussed Oath Keepers trying to overturn the outcome of the 2020 White House elections, buying weapons, preparing for siege, and planning combat.

“We can’t get over this without a civil war. It’s too late. After President Donald Trump was predicted to be defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, the complaint was filed in a chat in November 2020. Rhodes said he wrote.


Officials say some members of the Oath Keepers will pass through the crowd on January 6 and enter the Capitol in a military-style stack formation. Group members have been accused of deploying weapons outside Washington and establishing a “quick reaction force” team that was ready to deliver weapons to group members and peers if they believed they needed it.

In late December 2020, Rhodes chatted that the only chance Trump had to succeed in overturning the election results was if he and Oath Keepers scared the House of Representatives and wouldn’t do the right thing. Please. But I don’t think they will listen, “according to the indictment.

Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building on January 6, but officials say he was communicating with Oath Keepers outside the Capitol grounds. Philip Linder, one of Rhodes’s leading lawyers, said his client intends to fight the indictment. Rhodes remains imprisoned in Texas and is detained this Thursday.


“We believe he should be released, not dangerous to fly,” Linder said after Rhodes first appeared on Friday.

Rhodes said in an interview with a right-wing host that he had no plans to attack the Capitol and that members were fraudulent. But he continues to lie that the 2020 elections have been stolen.

Sam Jackson, an assistant professor at Albany University, author of “Oath Keepers: The Edge of Patriotism and Violence in Right-Wing Rebel Groups,” said it’s not clear whether the leaders of Rhodes or Oath Keepers were involved before the indictment. Said he didn’t. With a plan to attack the Parliament building.

“Now it’s clear that it’s true,” he said. “It’s also clear that national leadership wasn’t just focused on the expected or perceived threats from Donald Trump’s Antifa and other adversaries, but they really think. “OK, if parliamentarians aren’t looking at things like us, how can we prevent the Electoral College from approving votes?”


The final sedition case was filed in 2010 against members of Michigan Militia. Two years later, they were acquitted by a judge who said their hateful diatribes did not prove that they had a detailed plan of the rebellion.

William Swor, a lawyer representing David Stone, the leader of the Hutaree militia, said prosecutors in the case 10 years ago planned that members of the group “not just talk” and “actively oppose the government.” I couldn’t prove that I was. “

“It’s a significant burden on the government and a significant risk,” he said. “If the government fails to meet that burden, they are out on the street.”

The last successful conviction of a sedition conspiracy arose from a 1954 attack on the Capitol, where four Puerto Rican Nationalist Party members fired on the house floor, injuring five representatives.

Mark Pitcavage, a senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Radical Center, said the collapse of the previous incitement to the far-right extremists was “taken by a small number of judges and juries. “I took it seriously,” he said to the entire US government, suggesting that it might be difficult to believe. “


According to Pickerbage, prosecutors in the proceedings against Oath Keepers appear to have “a huge amount of evidence of advance planning” and compelling video evidence that group members are attacking the Capitol. is.

“Evidence of that sort was almost missing from all these previous cases,” Pitcavage said. “In my opinion, sedition cases are always at some risk inherently, but the prosecutor in this case has filed a much stronger proceeding in favor of the jury than some of his predecessors. I think.”

If convicted of a sedition conspiracy, the defendant may face up to 20 years in prison, compared to 5 years on other conspiracy charges.

A total of more than 700 people were arrested and charged with federal crime in the January 6 riots. More than 70 defendants remain in custody on suspicion of riots. As of Thursday, at least 186 defendants have pleaded guilty to riot-related charges.



Billeaud reported from Phoenix and Kunzelman at College Park, Maryland. Dallas Associated Press writer Jake Braeberg contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Legal risk of sedition conspiracy against Oath Keepers

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