Ten of the eleven members of the white supremacist militia group Oath Keepers who have been charged with seditious conspiracy, including founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, pleaded not guilty in a virtual hearing on Tuesday. The eleventh person charged was not present, and did not enter a plea.
The judge in this case is U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, the same judge who earlier dealt with, and dismissed, claims that Trump has “absolute immunity.” Judge Mehta also forced Trump’s attorney’s to backtrack over claims that Trump had tried to calm down the situation on January 6, 2021.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Mehta reviewed the seriousness of the charges, and asked federal prosecutors to explain a change in the charges, specifically why Rhodes was being charged with the more serious form of conspiracy under 18 USC 1512k. As Marcy Wheeler explained back on January 13, this form of conspiracy opens the potential for a lengthier sentence, including potential “enhancements for threats of assassination and kidnapping.”
A court date for the charges has tentatively been set for July. But within the next two days, Rhodes is going to face the results of a ruling from another judge.
Rhodes is currently being held without bond at a federal penitentiary in Plano, Texas after attorneys from the Justice Department explained his role in organizing the plot to “oppose by force the execution of the laws of the United States.” According to the DOJ, “Under these circumstances, only pretrial detention can protect the community from the danger Rhodes poses." Prosecutors pointed to messages and emails Rhodes sent during the weeks leading up to January 6, including one that read “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war.”
Rhodes earlier tried, and failed, to obtain his release. However, earlier this week Rhodes went before Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson. As WFAA reports, federal prosecutors again stated that “there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure the safety of the community or the defendant's appearance in court."
At the hearing, the DOJ submitted a series of texts from Rhodes that preceded the January 6 events.
[We] "need to scare or intimidate members of congress."
"...about a million surrounding them should do the trick."
"The only chance we have is if we scare the sh*t out of them....to do the right thing."
Defense attorneys argued that Rhodes hasn’t threatened anyone lately. (No, seriously, the argument that Rhodes hasn’t threatened anyone while he was being investigated by the FBI was the best thing they put forward.) The attorneys also argued that Rhodes wasn’t a flight risk because he loves publicity and the trial would be “a very public platform.” Which also doesn’t seem like the most compelling argument to release someone who purchased $40,000 of ammunition just before January 6.
Judge Johnson promised a ruling within 48 hours. But as she contemplates that decision, this might help:
Meanwhile his ex-wife in Montana continues to say the thought of having him released "is a living nightmare."
The charges of seditious conspiracy against Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers puts paid to assertions from Republicans that no one involved in the assault on the Capitol was facing more than minor charges. It also opens the door to other serious charges against groups like the Proud Boys, the organizers of the January 6 events, and hopefully, against the people actually behind both the Big Lie and the attempted coup.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos