Attack on the US Capitol: the founder of the far-right militia Stewart Rhodes accused of conspiracy

Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.

PHOTO: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

  • The founder of a far-right American group has been indicted for the attack on the United States Capitol in January 2021.
  • Stewart Rhodes, the founder of Oath Keepers, has been charged with seditious conspiracy.
  • Thomas Caldwell and Edward Vallejo were also accused of coordinating the attacks.

The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, and 10 others have been criminally charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, the US Department said Thursday. of Justice.

It was the first time prosecutors had brought this charge against the defendants in the attack. The crime is defined as an attempt to “forcibly overthrow, suppress, or destroy the government of the United States”.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump that day stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Congress from certifying his electoral defeat to President Joe Biden. The attack came shortly after Trump, in a speech, repeated his false claims that his loss was the result of widespread voter fraud and urged his supporters to come to the Capitol and “stand fight like hell” to prevent the theft of the elections.

The Oath Keepers are a loosely organized group of activists who believe the federal government is encroaching on their rights and focus on recruiting current and former police, emergency services, and military personnel.

Prosecutors said that beginning in late December 2020, Rhodes used private encrypted communications to plan to travel to Washington on January 6. He and others planned to bring weapons to the area to help support the operation, they said.

While some of the Oath Keeper members rushed inside the building wearing tactical gear, others remained stationed outside in what they saw as “rapid response force” teams. who were ready to quickly transport weapons into the city, the prosecutor said.

The indictment alleges that Thomas Caldwell, a former defendant in the case, and Edward Vallejo of Arizona, a new defendant in the case, were responsible for coordinating these rapid reaction force teams.

Seditious conspiracy is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Nine of the 11 defendants were already facing other charges.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland, on the eve of the anniversary of last week’s attack, pledged to hold accountable anyone involved in the riot. The department has charged more than 725 people with crimes stemming from the attack. Of these people, about 165 have pleaded guilty and at least 70 have been sentenced. Garland said the Justice Department will “follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Over the years, the Justice Department has secured seditious conspiracy convictions against Puerto Rican nationalists and suspected Islamist militants, including Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the radical Islamist cleric known as the “Blind Sheikh”.

Seditious conspiracy charges figured prominently in a case brought by federal authorities in 1987 against leaders and members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Fourteen members or suspected supporters were charged, including 10 charged with seditious conspiracy.

After a two-month trial, a jury acquitted all defendants.

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