A US court convicted Stewart Rhodes, leader of the far-right group Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy this Tuesday (29). This is the most serious accusation related to the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an episode considered one of the greatest attacks in history on American democracy.
The crime is defined as attempting to forcibly overthrow, overthrow, or destroy the US government, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. In addition to Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, who coordinated the Florida arm of the Oath Keepers, was also convicted of sedition – three other defendants were found not guilty.
The verdicts, after three days of deliberations, were a victory for the Justice Department and the first time in nearly 20 trials related to the case that a jury has found the Jan. 6 violence to be the product of an organized conspiracy, according to US newspaper The New York Times.
Approximately 900 people, in nearly all 50 US states, are accused of involvement in the January 6 episode. Investigations are still ongoing – also in a bipartisan congressional commission, which seeks to determine the responsibilities of members of the federal administration at the time.
The Oath Keepers are a relatively loose group of activists who say they believe the federal government is encroaching on their rights. They focus on recruiting police and former agents, emergency service workers and the military. The organization was founded in 2009 by Rhodes, who is a former military man. He was arrested in January of this year.
During the process, prosecutors said that, in late December 2020, Rhodes used encrypted private means of communication to organize his trip to the American capital on January 6 – the date of the invasion. He and others planned to bring weapons to the site to help support the operation.
🇧🇷[Os acusados] organized trips from all over the country to Washington, equipped themselves with all types of weapons, dressed in combat uniforms and were ready to respond to the call to arms of Rhodes”, communicated the indictment. Members of the Oath Keepers, often heavily armed, are often seen at protests and political events in the US.
The Capitol invasion in January 2021 led supporters of then-President Donald Trump to a failed attempt to prevent the US Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory for the Presidency. The attack came shortly after a speech in which the Republican repeated baseless accusations that his defeat was the result of widespread fraud. He then urged supporters to come to Capitol Hill to “fight like never before” to prevent the election from being stolen.
Trump, who this month announced that he will run for president again, was summoned by the House to present his version of the episode that left five dead, but he did not appear until the last 14th, a date set as the deadline.
Testimony has always been regarded as uncertain. The Supreme Court’s opinion guarantees former presidents the so-called executive privilege, a mechanism that, to some extent, protects them from giving testimony. The commission understands, however, that there are limits to the triggering of the device and cites cases in which other former presidents testified in similar bodies of Congress.
The crime of seditious conspiracy also featured prominently in the US in 1987, when federal authorities brought charges against leaders and members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. 14 alleged members or supporters were indicted, ten of whom faced seditious conspiracy charges. After a two-month trial, the jury cleared all defendants.
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