December 1, 2022
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was convicted on Tuesday, November 29, along with one of his subordinates, of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep former President Donald Trump in power through an extensive plot that started after the 2020 election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, reports The New York Times.
The jury in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., found three other defendants in the case not guilty of sedition and acquitted Rhodes of two separate conspiracy charges.
The split verdicts, coming after three days of deliberations, were a landmark—if not total—victory for the Justice Department, which poured enormous effort into prosecuting Rhodes and his four co-defendants.
The sedition convictions marked the first time in nearly 20 trials related to the Capitol attack that a jury had decided that the violence that erupted on January 6, 2021, was the product of an organized conspiracy.
Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge brought so far in any of the 900 criminal cases stemming from the vast investigation of the Capitol attack—an inquiry that could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests.
Rhodes, 57, also was found guilty of obstructing the certification of the election during a joint session of Congress on January 6 and of destroying evidence in the case. On those three counts, he faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.
Nearly two years after the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters, the events of January 6 and what led up to them remain at the center of American politics and the subject of multiple investigations, including an inquiry by the Justice Department into any criminal culpability that Trump and some of his allies might face and an exhaustive account being assembled by a House select committee.
The conviction of Rhodes underscored the seriousness and intensity of the effort by pro-Trump forces to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and was the highest-profile legal reckoning yet from a case related to January 6.
Rhodes was also acquitted of two different conspiracy charges: one that accused him of plotting to disrupt the election certification in advance of January 6 and the other of planning to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.
Taken as a whole, the verdicts suggested that the jury rejected the centerpiece of Rhodes’s defense: that he had no concrete plan on January 6 to disrupt the transfer of presidential power and to keep Joe Biden from entering the White House.
But the jury also made the confusing decision to acquit Rhodes of planning in advance to disrupt the certification of the election yet convict him of actually disrupting the certification process. That suggested that the jurors may have believed that the violence at the Capitol on January 6 erupted more or less spontaneously, as Rhodes has claimed.
In a statement on Tuesday night, Attorney General Merrick Garland noted the convictions against all five defendants. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021,” he said.
Research contact: @nytimes