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Tag: seditious conspiracy

Feds Indict Five 'Proud Boys' Leaders For Seditious Conspiracy

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Enrique Tarrio, the former leader of the right-wing group the Proud Boys, and four of his top lieutenants faced new federal charges of seditious conspiracy on Monday for their involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a court document.

Federal prosecutors investigating the attack filed the new charges against Tarrio, Dominic Pezzola, Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs, and Zachary Rehl, according to the document. All five defendants have already pleaded not guilty to other criminal charges related to the attack.

The new indictment accuses the five men of plotting to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 presidential victory over incumbent Republican Donald Trump. Trump has made false claims that he lost due to widespread voting fraud.

Prosecutors say Tarrio played a leading role even though he was not in Washington that day, having already been arrested on other charges related to weapons possession.

Three members of another right wing group, the Oath Keepers, have already pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges. Several other members of that group, including leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, have pleaded not guilty and are due to stand trial later this year.

About 800 people have been charged with taking part in the Capitol riot, with about 250 guilty pleas so far.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Timothy Ahmann; editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

Oath Keepers Witness Describes Leader's Effort To Advance Coup After Riot

Things appears to have gone from bad to worse for Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes, who faces seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the January 6 insurrection, after another member of the far-right militia group told investigators, as part of a plea deal, that Rhodes tried to contact Trump on the evening of the Capitol riot.

William Todd Wilson, an Oath Keeper from North Carolina, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his role in impeding the January 6 congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

Wilson and other Oath Keepers, according to the Justice Department, sought to forcibly halt the transfer of power from then-President Trump to then-President-Elect Biden, disrupting a crucial congressional session in the process.

On Wednesday, in plea documents, Wilson described under oath the Oath Keepers’ activities before, during, and after the insurrection. On the night of January 6, according to Wilson, after the armed group regrouped at the Phoenix Hotel, Rhodes placed a call to an individual he believed could connect him directly to Trump, and lobbied for the former president to mobilize the group for another round of violence.

“Rhodes then called an individual over speaker phone. Wilson heard Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to oppose the transfer of power forcibly. This individual denied Rhodes’s request to speak directly with President Trump. After the call ended, Rhodes stated to the group, I just want to fight.’,” court documents reveal.

The phone call with the unidentified individual, which appears to show the Oath Keepers had a contact in Trump’s inner circle, was previously unknown as Wilson, who provided the testimony, wasn’t named in the initial conspiracy indictment filed in January, per multiple news reports.

"This individual denied Rhodes's request to speak directly with President Trump," the plea statement added.

Wilson is the third Oath Keepers member to admit to seditious conspiracy, but before now, none of the militia group’s members were accused of trying to contact Trump on the day of the siege at the Capitol.

In his plea document, Wilson said he’d “heard Rhodes discuss the potential need for Rhodes and co-conspirators to engage in force, up to and including lethal violence, in order to stop the transfer of power.”

Heeding the call to arms, Wilson arrived at a hotel room in Washington, D.C., ahead of the attack, armed to the teeth. He admitted in his plea document to bringing along an “AR-15-style rifle, a 9-millimeter pistol, approximately 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, a camouflaged combat uniform, pepper spray, a large walking stick intended for use as a weapon, and a pocketknife,” according to CBS News.

According to court documents, Wilson, Rhodes, and 14 other members of the Oath Keepers “bypassed barricades and Capitol Police officers, and unlawfully entered the restricted grounds of the Capitol.”

Wilson said he tossed his cellphone into the Atlantic Ocean weeks after the attack to stymie any investigations into his actions. He now faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts he pleaded guilty to.

Judge Orders Oath Keepers Leader  Rhodes Jailed Ahead Of Sedition Trial

By Jan Wolfe

(Reuters) -A U.S. judge on Friday said Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes should remain in jail as he awaits trial on a charge of seditious conspiracy for his alleged role in plotting the deadly January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes, 56, is the most high-profile defendant of the more than 725 people charged with playing a role in the attack by then-President Donald Trump's supporters. His lawyer said there is no evidence that Rhodes conspired to block Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election.

He is one of 11 members or associates of the Oath Keepers facing a seditious conspiracy charge.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe in West Palm Beach, Florida; Additional reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

Oath Keepers Plead Not Guilty To Sedition As Leader Remains Jailed

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

Capitol Riot Indictments Closing In On Trump Inner Circle

Last week's indictment of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes for seditionist conspiracy revealed more than simply the mountain of evidence that the Justice Department has acquired in the prosecutions of key players in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. It also made clear the DOJ’s larger strategy of moving up the food chain of players in the historic attack—with Donald Trump and his inner circle now only steps away.

Much of the attention has focused on former Trump adviser Roger Stone, whose connections to the “Patriot” movement—and particularly to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who spearheaded the siege of the Capitol—are well established; indeed, earlier on Jan. 6, two Oath Keepers now charged alongside Rhodes with sedition in the conspiracy were part of Stone’s personal security detail. But as Marcy Wheeler incisively reports, more recent court documents also make clear that the investigation into militia groups’ activities that day now encompasses Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Stone’s connections to the Oath Keepers and Rhodes, as Jennifer Cohn recently laid out, date back to at least 2014, when he was part of the scene at the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada, where the Oath Keepers formed a significant presence. After Trump was elected, Stone became an ardent proponent of issuing a pardon for the Bundys in both the Nevada standoff and 2016 Malheur standoff prosecutions, appearing onstage with them in Las Vegas.

Those prosecutions ended up failing, so Trump instead pardoned the two Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment had fueled the Malheur standoff. Stone nonetheless remained a public ally of the Bundys; when Ammon Bundy announced his campaign for the Idaho governorship in 2021, Stone proudly endorsed him.

Stone also had a long relationship with another group that played a key role in the conspiracies to besiege the Capitol—the Proud Boys. In 2018, he was photographed flashing a white-nationalist “OK” sign with a group of Oregon Proud Boys in a tavern. He also was investigated by the FBI in 2019 for posting a message on Instagram that appeared to threaten a federal judge, which he blamed on Proud Boys, including national chairman Enrique Tarrio, who had been “helping” him with his social-media account.

Both Stone and Tarrio live in Florida and appear to have had multiple associations, including a meeting on December 12, 2020, in Washington, D.C., during the “Stop the Steal” rally that served as a warmup for January 6. Stone was seen in the video conferring both with Tarrio—who was arrested by D.C. police two days before the insurrection—and with Ethan Nordean, one of the key leaders of the group of Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol.

As Wheeler reported earlier, Stone also met with Kelly Meggs—leader of the Florida Oath Keepers and one of the key figures in the seditionist conspiracy case—two days before telling his cohorts that he was working out a cooperative agreement with Proud Boys leading up to what Meggs himself described as an “insurrection.”

However, most of the evidence introduced in the Oath Keepers conspiracy case so far offers little information about that connection on January 6, and there’s little in the evidence to suggest that Stone was directing or assisting them while they were providing security for him at the Ellipse, where Trump was speaking that morning. The most tantalizing clues involve the period when Stone was embedded in the Trump “War Room” at the Willard Hotel earlier that day.

Key figures in Trump’s circle—including Giuliani, as well as Steve Bannon, John Eastman, and other hardcore defenders of Trump’s “Big Lie” that he won the 2020 election—were circulating around the “command center” they had set up at the Willard. As it happens, so were members of a militia group called the 1st Amendment Patriots, who also had members stationed around the Capitol.

Oath Keepers, as Wheeler has reported, were providing security for the operations at the Willard. And after Stone departed for the Ellipse, according to text messages from indictee Joshua James—the Oath Keeper overseeing the detail—he complained bitterly that the detail at the Ellipse had failed to provide him with “VIP treatment.”

The Willard Hotel “War Room” happens to be the same nexus that has drawn Giuliani into the investigation, as Wheeler observed this week. While a Washington Post story last weekend concluded that the FBI doesn’t appear to be investigating the activities at the Willard, it also contained information indicating that FBI investigators have been pressing several defendants—all Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—about key figures at the morning rally and later at the Willard, including both Stone and Giuliani.

Rob Jenkins, a defense attorney representing multiple people linked to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, another far-right group, said prosecutors have been “pretty aggressive” in “seeking out information … that points to others’ involvement and culpability.”
They are interested, he said, in “preplanning, and participation in those preplanning on the part of the individuals who may not have come to D.C. on January 6 but were certainly part of the planned effort.” That includes both leaders in the groups and people who spoke at the rally on January 6, including close Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone, he said.

The DOJ, of course, already possesses most of Giuliani’s communications from that period as part their investigation into his business dealings, and maybe hunting for further corroboration of evidence already in hand or perhaps suggested in his texts. And if Trump’s personal lawyer is in their sights, the former president himself may well be next. Giuliani also has been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee, but it is not known how he will respond.

What’s become abundantly clear, however, is that DOJ is moving through these indictments strategically—only including evidence that builds their case publicly as well as internally, with the intent of inducing other defendants to turn state’s evidence as cooperating witnesses. It’s being extraordinarily careful about tipping its hand regarding its targets or its long-range strategy. It may be wisest to allow them to keep gathering and sifting, because that approach has proven the likeliest way to win in court and bring the insurrectionists—hopefully, all of them, all the way up the ladder—to accountability.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos

Far-right Oath Keepers Charged With Seditious Conspiracy In Capitol Attack

By Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, and 10 alleged members of the group with seditious conspiracy for their role in the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

They said Rhodes had warned his group to prepare for a "bloody and desperate fight" in the days leading up to the assault, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying his election defeat.

This is the first time alleged participants in the attack have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is defined as attempting "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

"We are going to have a fight," prosecutors said Rhodes told his allies on the messaging app Signal. "That can't be avoided."

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

Nine of the eleven charged with seditious conspiracy were already facing other charges relating to the Capitol attack. Members of the far-right Proud Boys and Three Percenters have also been charged with taking part in the attack.

The indictment says Rhodes started sending messages to his followers in November 2020, the month of Trump's election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, encouraging them to "oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."

After his defeat, Trump repeatedly made false claims that his loss was a result of widespread fraud. He repeated those claims in a fiery speech near the White House before thousands of his followers stormed the Capitol in the worst attack on the seat of Congress since the War of 1812.

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 help support the operation, prosecutors said.

While some of the Oath Keeper members rushed inside the building wearing tactical gear, others remained outside in what they deemed "quick-response force" teams, which were prepared to rapidly transport arms into the city, prosecutors said.

Jon Moseley, an attorney for Rhodes, told Reuters he was on the phone with Rhodes to discuss his planned appearance before the House Select Committee on January 6 when the FBI called.

"He patched me in on the call and I identified myself as his lawyer," Moseley said in an e-mail. The agent then told him they were outside Rhodes' home in Granbury, Texas, and were there to arrest him.

The indictment alleges that Thomas Caldwell, who was previously charged, and Edward Vallejo of Arizona, a new defendant, were in charge of coordinating the quick-response force teams.

Seditious conspiracy is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland last week vowed to hold accountable anyone involved in the attack on the Capitol. The department has charged more than 725 people with crimes arising from the attack. Of those people, about 165 have pleaded guilty and at least 70 have been sentenced. Garland said the Justice Department would "follow the facts wherever they lead."

On the day of the attack, four people died. One of them, Ashli Babbitt, was shot dead by Capitol Police while trying to break into the Speaker's Gallery. Three others died of natural causes.

The following day, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died. Although he had been sprayed with a chemical irritant the day of the attack, it was later determined he died of natural causes. Around 140 police officers were injured, and four police officers later died by suicide.

The Justice Department has previously obtained seditious conspiracy convictions against Puerto Rican nationalists and alleged Islamist militants including Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the radical Islamic clergyman known as the "Blind Sheikh."

Seditious conspiracy charges featured prominently in a case federal authorities brought in 1987 against leaders and members of a neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Fourteen alleged members or supporters were indicted, with 10 facing seditious conspiracy counts.

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

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone, Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis)

To Hold Trump Accountable For His Criminal Conduct Is An Enormous Challenge

So here’s my question: Let’s say you’re Attorney General Merrick Garland. Filing a criminal indictment against former President Trump should be a fairly straightforward matter, although conspiracy charges are notoriously hard to prove. After all, much of Trump’s January 6, 2021 attempt to overthrow the United States government was performed live on national TV.

We’ve seen the video a hundred times, with Trump urging the mob to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol to “fight like hell and if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump also promised to march with his impassioned followers, but anybody who believed that probably still believes that Trump got a big league tryout alongside Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, as he once boasted.

For the record, McCovey who died at age 80 in 2018, was eight years older than Trump. By the time our hero graduated from high school, McCovey had been the San Francisco Giants first baseman for five years. In 1959, when Trump was in ninth grade, he’d been National League Rookie-of-the-Year.

Slate once dug into old newspapers that published local prep school box scores. Trump’s batting average was .138.

So no, there was no big league tryout, a pathetic and ridiculous lie very much like his “landslide” win in the 2020 presidential election.

He just makes stuff up as he goes along, this guy, relying upon the tribalism and extreme gullibility of his supporters. So, of course, he failed to march with the mob to the Capitol. It’s doubtful he could walk that far without a golf cart.

Instead, Trump retired to the White House, where he watched the violence unfold on TV—ignoring pleas from his son, daughter and normally worshipful Fox News personalities to urge the rioters to desist.

At 2:24 PM, with the crowd having erected a gallows on the Capitol Grounds and chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” Trump tweeted that the vice president “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

The Vice President’s security detail hustled him to safety. Meanwhile, Trump kept watching for another couple of hours as the mob beat cops with flagpoles and fire extinguishers, hunted Nancy Pelosi, vandalized Congressional offices and defecated in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

Not long after he finally urged the horde to relent, as they obediently did, Trump dispatched another tweet: “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots…”

But back to the Attorney General’s dilemma. That Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote appears quite clear. Now that he’s no longer in office, the Justice Department’s policy that a president cannot be charged no longer protects him. Indeed, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) has pointedly paraphrased the applicable laws in her statements about the investigation.

But how on earth would it be possible to put Trump on trial? Jury selection alone would be a nightmare. Not only does everybody already know many of the facts and judgements alluded to above, but many have already formed unassailable opinions. (I’d certainly be ineligible to serve.)

Some observers think Fulton County (Atlanta) prosecutor Fani Willis has a better shot at prosecuting Trump for trying to strong arm Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes—enough to overturn that state’s vote. Partly because not everybody already knows the story, and partly because they’ve got Trump whining and threatening on tape.

That said, convicting the sleazy rascal would be a heavy lift. A substantial proportion of the American public exists in thrall to what The Hill columnist Bill Schneider calls “militant ignorance,” i.e. “ignorance that is proud of itself, that holds knowledge in contempt.” (It’s first cousin to what we called “invincible ignorance” back in my Baltimore Catechism days.)

A good place to witness the phenomenon, for those who lack the advantage of living among red state Republicans, would be to examine a focus group the New York Times conducted with Trump voters. Not only have most swallowed his election lies—they believe that mail-in voting led to massive fraud—but also that the January 6 insurrection was “way overblown.”

Shown texts by Donald Jr., Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity urging Trump to restrain his followers, they express dismay.

“They’re saying what you would think almost a Democrat would say or a liberal would say,” one woman exclaims.

“Kind of shocking to me,” says another “You’d think they’d back the president.”

That is, the mob.

Elsewhere, the group evidences a deep strain of paranoia. Democrats are scheming to steal our freedoms and usher in the New World Order. “It’s all about control, and they’re keeping Covid as one of their biggest weapons.”

Alas, our nation’s problems go deeper than Trump.