(The Hill) – Federal prosecutors have charged the founder of the Oath Keepers and 10 other members of the far-right group with seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 riot, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Stewart Rhodes, 56, was arrested Thursday in Little Elm, Texas, and also faces charges of crimes related to breaching the US Capitol.
The leader and founder of Oath Keepers said he was present during the riot but never entered the Capitol on January 6.
“The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that following the November 3, 2020 presidential election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to forcibly oppose the execution of laws governing transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021,” the Justice Department wrote in a statement.
“Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communication apps, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C. on or around January 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators planned to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C. metro area in early January 2021.”
The charges are the first seditious conspiracy charge used in connection with the riot, carrying a risk of up to 20 years in prison for those who “conspire to overthrow, overthrow or destroy by force” the government.
The charges follow a speech by Attorney General Merrick Garland a day before the anniversary of the attack, in which he defended the department’s prosecution efforts amid complaints that they were moving too slowly to target leaders who allegedly could have triggered the attack on the Capitol.
Garland pledged her willingness to prosecute those involved “at any level…whether they were present that day or were criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”
“We build surveys by laying the groundwork. We resolve the simplest cases first because they provide the evidentiary basis for the most complex cases. Investigating the most overt crimes generates links to less overt crimes. The overt actors and the evidence they provide can lead us to others who may also have been involved and this evidence can serve as the basis for other investigative leads and techniques,” he said.