FBI arrests Oath Keepers leader on Jan. 6 charges

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FILE – In this Sunday, June 25, 2017 file photo, Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington. Rhodes has been arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department announced the charges against Rhodes on Thursday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(The Hill) – Federal prosecutors have charged the founder of the Oath Keepers and 10 other members of the far-right group with seditious conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 riot, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Stewart Rhodes, 56, was arrested Thursday in Little Elm, Texas, and also faces charges for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol.

The Oath Keepers leader and founder has said he was present at the riot but never entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

FILE – Stewart Rhodes, founder and president of the pro gun rights organization Oath Keepers speaks during a gun rights rally at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Saturday April 20, 2013. Rhodes has been arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department announced the charges against Rhodes on Thursday. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jared Ramsdell, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

“The seditious conspiracy indictment alleges that, following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021,” Justice Department wrote in a release.

“Beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021.”

The charges are the first seditious conspiracy charge used in connection with the riot, carrying the risk of up to 20 years in prison for those that “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force” the government.

The charges follow a speech from Attorney General Merrick Garland a day before the anniversary of the attack, in which he defended the department’s prosecutorial efforts amid complaints they were moving too slowly to target leaders who may have prompted the attack on the Capitol.

Garland promised a willingness to pursue those involved “at any level… whether they were present that day, or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”

“We build investigations by laying a foundation. We resolve more straightforward cases first because they provide the evidentiary foundation for more complex cases. Investigating the more overt crimes, generates linkages to less overt ones. Overt actors and the evidence they provide can lead us to others who may also have been involved and that evidence can serve as a foundation for further investigative leads and techniques,” he said.

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