In an effort to prevent US Vice President Joe Biden from entering office following the 2020 election, the leader of a far-right militia was found guilty of planning the crime.
After a two-month trial, a jury found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of the unusual charge of seditious conspiracy.
Prosecutors claim that he planned an armed uprising to prevent the handover of authority from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
He was on trial alongside four other people for the Capitol riots in 2021.
Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, and Kenneth Harrelson were three of the group who entered the structure during the assault.
On Tuesday, Meggs was also determined to have engaged in a seditious conspiracy. The charges against Rhodes and Meggs carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.
Harrelson, Watkins, and Caldwell, three of the group’s members, were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy.
The group’s five members were all held responsible for obstructing an official investigation.
Rhodes was also found guilty of interfering with records or procedures. According to the prosecution, Rhodes served as a “battlefield general” throughout the disturbances. He was cleared of two further conspiracy charges.
On January 6, 2021, supporters of Republican then-President Trump stormed Congress in an effort to prevent the official declaration of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Approximately 900 people have been detained for participating in the riot so far, almost all of them in all 50 states.
The jury deliberated for three whole days before reaching its decision. Before taking a weekend break for the Thanksgiving holiday and convening for two additional days this week, the panel in Washington, DC, convened once.
Following the verdict, Rhodes’ attorneys expressed their displeasure with the outcome but acknowledged that the prosecution had not won handily either.
It’s a mixed bag, said attorney Edward Tarpley, who also expressed gratitude that the jury acquitted the defendants on several counts.
Why are the Oath Keepers on trial? Who are they?
Since ten Islamist extremists were found guilty in 1995 for attempting to plant bombs at famous New York City landmarks, this was the first conviction for seditious conspiracy.
To prevent citizens of the southern states from rebelling against the US government, the Civil War-era charge was initially put into effect.
Prosecutors must show that two or more individuals plotted to “overthrow, put down, or destroy by force” the US government or that they intended to use force to challenge US authority in order to secure a conviction for seditious conspiracy.
The conviction of Rhodes, according to University of Minnesota law professor and former US Department of Justice attorney Alan Rozenshtein, is significant because it demonstrates that a charge of seditious conspiracy is “a viable and legal path for punishing the most serious anti-democratic conduct” in the nation.
The jury’s ability to responsibly implement the conviction is demonstrated by the mixed result, he continued.
The verdict is also a confidence boost for the justice department, Mr. Rozenshtein said, in their quest to prosecute more people in relation to the Capitol riots.
Officials argued that Rhodes stashed dozens of weapons in a hotel room in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington DC, and planned to bring them into the city in the event of mass civil disorder.
During the trial, defense lawyers said that the fact the weapons were never used – or even brought into the city – bolstered their argument that the Oath Keepers were on a purely defensive mission, intending to protect protesters and keep the peace inside and outside the Capitol.
Among the defendants, two are from Florida, one is from Ohio and one is from Virginia. Rhodes, the accused ringleader, is from Texas.
Another famous storming of the US Capitol led to successful seditious conspiracy convictions.
In 1954, four nationalists from the US island territory of Puerto Rico fired shots onto the floor of the House of Representatives, wounding several lawmakers.
The attackers, as well as more than a dozen other members of the group, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
The Oath Keepers were founded by Rhodes, a former US Army paratrooper, and Yale-educated lawyer, and has sought to attract current and former members of the US military and law enforcement.
Over the past decade, members have shown up at a number of protests and armed standoffs across the country.
More Oath Keepers members, along with members of another far-right group, the Proud Boys, will go on trial on seditious conspiracy charges later this year.