On Tuesday, a federal jury convicted Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes of seditious conspiracy and other charges surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The attack was unsuccessful in its attempt to prevent the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden. The conviction is a victory for the Justice Department, which spearheaded the prosecution featuring the most significant charges connected to the attack.
Codefendant Kelly Meggs was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges in his role. However, CBS News reported that Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell, who were also listed defendants, were acquitted on the conspiracy charge but found guilty of other crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack.
The jury deliberated for three days before deciding on the verdict.
Rhodes and Meggs face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the charges.
Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the outcome, saying, “the Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on Jan. 6, 2021.”
Prosecutors argued the group planned ahead of the Capitol attack to stop the peaceful transfer of the presidential transition after Trump lost the election to Biden. The rioters intended an “any means necessary” attempt to upend centuries of lawful presidential transfers, attorneys added.
There were nearly eight weeks of testimony as prosecutors and defense attorneys went back and forth on whether the actions and words of the defendants were deemed inciting or hyperbolic “bravado.”
Several took the stand to testify against Rhodes, including former members of the Oath Keepers group, who that claimed, as soon Biden was confirmed president, he and his associates worked to oppose the lawful transfer of power, discussed civil war, and collected weapons in a Virginia hotel room before breaching the Capitol.
Prosecutors supported their claims with chat messages, recorded messages, and social media posts that helped them prove that the Jan. 6 riot was planned out and not rhetoric.
They also put Rhodes, a Yale graduate, at the forefront of that plan, highlighting that he sent a letter to Trump asking him to invoke the Insurrection Act to enable an armed resistance against a rogue government.
In prosecutors’ closing statement, they reiterated the group, specifically Rhodes, were leaders of the Jan. 6 riot and that the conspiracy was brought on by the group’s “sense of entitlement that led to frustration, followed by rage and then violence.”
The charge of seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge handed down in the Justice Department’s probe thus far.