Alan Rozenshtein, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and a former US Department of Justice lawyer, said the conviction of Rhodes is significant because it shows that a seditious conspiracy charge is “a viable and legal path for punishing the most serious anti-democratic conduct” in the country.
Oath Keepers Leader and Associates Convicted of US Sedition
A Washington, DC, jury has convicted Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and one of his associates of the rare charge of seditious conspiracy for their role in the 6 January 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, following a two-month trial.
Kelly Meggs,was found guilty on Tuesday of plotting to stop US President Joe Biden from taking office after the 2020 election.Both now face a maximum 20-year sentence on the charges.
Rhodes and Meggs, together with Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson, and Thomas Caldwell, were also convicted of obstructing an official proceeding.
The Justice Department alleged that the five Oath Keepers members plotted an armed rebellion to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from then-President Donald Trump to Biden and to also attack the US Capitol.
Rhodes, 57, who prosecutors say acted as a “battlefield general” by standing outside the Capitol while his followers breached the building during the riots, was also found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings.
Supporters of Trump, a Republican, had stormed Congress on 6 January 2021 in a bid to thwart certification of Biden’s White House election victory. So far around 900 people in nearly all 50 states have been arrested for taking part in the Capitol riot.
Speaking outside the courthouse following the verdict, which came after three full days of jury deliberation, Rhodes’s lawyers said they were not pleased with the outcome, but added that it was not a clear-cut victory for the prosecution either.
“It’s a mixed bag,” said lawyer Edward Tarpley, who added that he was grateful the jury found the defendants not guilty on some counts.
This was the first conviction of seditious conspiracy since 1995 when 10 Islamist militants were convicted for trying to plant bombs at New York City landmarks.
The Civil War-era charge was first enacted to stop residents of southern states from fighting against the US government.
In order to be convicted of seditious conspiracy, prosecutors must prove that two or more people conspired to “overthrow, put down or to destroy by force” the US government, or that they planned to use force to oppose US authority.