Oath Keepers Founder Goes on Trial Over Jan 6

The trial has begun for Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four others charged with conspiring to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. prosecutors are presenting their opening statements today in the trial of Oath Keepers Rhodes and his co-defendants Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins, and Kenneth Harrelson. 

The Oath Keepers are a far-right militia group. 

The five individuals are accused of plotting to forcefully prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, in a failed bid to keep then-President Donald Trump in power.

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to overturn his election loss to Biden after Trump falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him through widespread fraud. 

The insurrection on the Capitol was both violent and deadly. Five people died during and shortly after the riot, and about 140 police were injured.

The five on trial face numerous felony charges. One charge is a seditious conspiracy, a Civil War-era statute that is rarely prosecuted and carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The opening statements are expected to last several hours. The trial could last for six weeks or even more. It is expected to feature emotionally charged videos from Jan. 6, as well as both text and audio messages that were sent between members of the far-right group. 

Prosecutors said the five defendants planned for the insurrection and trained for it, stockpiling weapons at a hotel near the Capitol for a so-called “quick reaction force” if they saw the need to transport arms into D.C. 

As lawmakers met on Jan. 6 to certify Biden’s election victory, some Oath Keepers rushed into the Capitol building, clad in paramilitary gear. They are not accused of carrying firearms onto Capitol grounds.

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