Washington — The Justice Department has charged 11 people, including the founder of the right-wing militia known as, with “seditious conspiracy” for their alleged roles in the , the most serious charges to date relating to the riot.
Elmer Stewart Rhodes of Granbury, Texas, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, and arrested in Texas on Thursday morning, the Justice Department said. Prosecutors allege he and others conspired to storm the Capitol and disrupt the counting of electoral votes in the 2020 election.
A total of 19 people were charged in three separate indictments made public on Thursday. Eleven of the individuals face charges of seditious conspiracy, while the others face charges of corruptly obstructing an official process and other related charges. Rhodes and another man, Edward Vallejo of Phoenix, Arizona, were charged for the first time, while the others were named in previous indictments.
“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 said.
One of Rhodes’ attorneys, Jon Moseley, told CBS News “I don’t think they’ll be able to prove” the case against Rhodes based on the documents.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, around two dozen Oath Keepers members or affiliatesfor their alleged part in the January 6 attack, many of them part of a larger case accusing them of conspiracy.
In a 48-page indictment, prosecutors detailed how Rhodes and his co-conspirators allegedly planned to stop the transfer of power by Jan. 20, 2020, when President Biden would be sworn in.
“They coordinated cross-country travel to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were ready to answer Rhodes’ call to take the arms under the direction of Rhodes,” according to the indictment. “Some co-conspirators also amassed guns on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., distributed them among ‘quick reaction force’ teams, and planned to use the guns in support of their plot to prevent the legal transfer of presidential power.”
Rhodes began sending messages through encrypted apps in November 2020, encouraging other oath keepers to oppose the transfer of powers, prosecutors said.
In a message sent Nov. 5, two days after the election, Rhodes told his supporters in a message on the Signal app: “We won’t get through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, your bodily spirit.” Then, in another message on Nov. 7, when Mr. Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election, Rhodes wrote: “Now we must do what the people of Serbia did when Milosevic stole his election – Refuse to accept it and march en- masse on the Capitol of the nation.
Rhodes then convened an online meeting with members of the Oath Keepers, during which he presented a plan to stop the transfer of presidential power, which included preparations for the use of force, according to court documents.
After the meeting, Kelly Meggs, the self-proclaimed leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers who is, sent a message to the other members, saying, “Anyone not on the call tonight. We got a call to action for DC. This is when we signed up for….”
Coordination and planning for the January 6 events began in late December, according to federal prosecutors, with Rhodes and his fellow oath keepers planning to bring weapons to the Washington area to support their efforts to prevent Congress from reasserting victory. election of Mr. Biden.
On the day of the attack, prosecutors detailed how members of the Oath Keepers and its affiliates formed two “stacks” to breach the Capitol building. The first stack entered the Capitol Rotunda and separated, with one half attempting to get law enforcement outside the Senate Chamber and the second half heading into the Chamber in search of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to the indictment.
“They did not find President Pelosi and eventually left the building,” the filing said.
The second pile also breached the Capitol grounds and three of the oath keepers entered the rotunda and attempted to fend off police guarding the area, prosecutors said.
During this time, the charging documents allege that a separate team of oath keepers remained outside of Washington and were “ready to quickly transport firearms and other weapons to Washington, D.C., at the support to operations”.
If convicted, each seditious conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, although federal judges have wide latitude in imposing sentences.