Ten members of the Oath Keepers pled not guilty to seditious conspiracy and other charges on Tuesday, days after prosecutors unveiled photos of members of the far-right militia transporting bins of weapons ahead of the Capitol riot.
A total of 11 members were hit with the charge of seditious conspiracy, which holds that they tried to ‘overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.’
Ten of them, including founder Stewart Rhodes, have pled not guilty.
Edward Vallejo was not at Tuesday’s hearing and didn’t enter a formal plea, CNN reported.
Last week, prosecutors released photos of Vallejo, 63, wheeling in bins of weapons, ammunitions and ‘essential supplies to last 30 days’ to a hotel just outside of Washington, D.C., on January 5, 2021, the day before the deadly riot.
On January 6, prosecutors say he sent a text to a group thread that read, ‘Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist,’ later adding, ‘QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word…’
Ten members of the Oath Keepers have pled not guilty to sedition and other charges in relation to the Capitol riot. Above, Oath Keepers march down the Capitol steps on January 6
Prosecutors say 11 Oath Keepers in total tried to ‘overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.’ Above, Edward Vallejo, 63, wheels bins with weapons and ammunition into a hotel just miles from the Capitol the day before the January 6 riot
Those who pled guilty include Oath Keepers leader and founder Stewart Rhodes, above
Vallejo, 63, is the only one of the 11 charged with sedition to not yet enter a formal plea
The Department of Justice unveiled indictment against the 11 Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy in early January. Most faced other charges already.
Along with Rhodes and Vallejo, the other Oath Keepers charged with conspiracy are Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, Joshua James, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel, Brian Ulrich and Thomas Caldwell.
They are set to go to trial in July, CNN reported. Prosecutes said there are ‘ongoing discussions’ with defense lawyers about whether the seditious conspiracy charge will led to plea deals.
Rhodes is believed to be the first person who did not actually go inside the building to be criminally charged over the riot.
He founded the Oath Keepers in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2009.
The group ‘claims to defend the Constitution’ and is ‘based on a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy Americans’ liberties,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Members of the Oath Keepers believe that the government may at one point plan to seize all Americans’ guns.
CHARGED WITH SEDITION: Brian Ulrich, left, and Joshua James, right. Photos from before the riot show James ‘providing security’ to speakers at the Stop the Steal rally, prosecutor say
CHARGED WITH SEDITION: Jessica Marie Watkins, left, and Kenneth Harrelson, right. Watkins, a bartender from Ohio, claims the US Secret Service was aware of her assisting in security near the White House
Prosecutors say members of the far-right militia waited at the hotel on January 6 and were ready to show up to the Capitol fully armed at a moment’s notice
CHARGED WITH SEDITION: Kelly Meggs, left, and Joseph Hackett, right. Hackett is a chiropractor from Sarasota, Florida
CHARGED WITH SEDITION: Robert Minuta, left and David Moerschel, right. Minuta allegedly said, ‘Patriots are storming the Capitol… so we’re en route in a grand theft auto golf cart to the Capitol building right now… it’s going down guys; it’s literally going down right now Patriots storming the Capitol building…’
CHARGED WITH SEDITION: Thomas Caldwell, 67, allegedly suggested in a text message getting a boat to ferry weapons across the Potomac River to their ‘waiting arms.’
SEDITIOUS CONSPIRACY: THE CHARGE USED BY PRESIDENT ADAMS TO TAKE ON ‘TREASONOUS’ JOURNALISTS
The offense of seditious conspiracy is federal crime that involves two or more people in any state or territory conspiring to ‘overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them.’
Those found guilty of seditious conspiracy could face a fine, or a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, or both.
The concept of sedition as a crime was imported from Britain.
One of the most famous cases of sedition in the U.S. involved publisher John Peter Zenger, a German journalist who printed The New York Weekly Journal. He was charged with seditious libel in 1733 for criticizing New York’s colonial governor. The jury acquitted him, setting an American tradition of press freedom.
Under President John Adams, the Sedition Act of 1798 made it a crime to publish ‘false, scandalous, or malicious writing’ against the government. Adams and other Federalists hoped the law would stop some of the venom from the Republican press.
His fellow Founding Fathers, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, strongly opposed the Sedition Act, arguing that if criticism of government was not protected, the First Amendment was an empty promise.
The law proved as unpopular as Adams himself. He lost to Jefferson in 1800.
The Sedition Act expired the following March, but it served to renew American defense of freedom of speech.
Sedition is not in the constitution, but is alluded to in the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War.
In 1918, the Sedition Act was renewed by President Woodrow Wilson who worried that criticism of the government during World War One would harm morale.
The last time federal prosecutors filed seditious conspiracy charges was in 2010 against members of the Michigan-based Hutaree Christian militia, who were accused of inciting a revolt against the government.
But a judge dismissed the seditious conspiracy counts at trial, ruling that prosecutors failed to demonstrate that the alleged militia members ever had detailed plans for an anti-government insurrection.
One of the last successful convictions for the crime of seditious conspiracy stemmed from an incident that took place in 1954, when four Puerto Rican nationalists stormed into the US Capitol and opened fire on the House floor, injuring five Congress members.
In all, 19 members or associates of the Oath Keepers face charges of corruptly obstructing an official proceeding by traveling to Washington intent on stopping lawmakers from declaring Biden the election winner.
Prosecutors say Rhodes commanded his followers from outside, and that he’d spent months plotting the invasion over texts and encrypted messaging services. If convicted, he faces 20 years behind bars.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered near the Capitol for a rally the morning of January 6, in which Trump claimed that the 2020 election had been stolen from him and told his supporters to ‘fight like hell.’
The ensuing riot resulted in the death of five people, including law enforcement officers and protester Ashli Babbitt.
Rhodes’ attorney Jonathan Moseley told DailyMail.com that he was innocent, and that much of the evidence the prosecution included in the indictment had been taken out of context.
‘They planned to come to D.C. to help with the demonstration. They were planning that – they didn’t plan to break windows and beat police. They believe these charges are misguided. We’re going to have to require the government to put the entire documents in front of the court.
‘There were a lot of hypothetical discussions and discussions about other events. A lot of these things weren’t about January 6, they were about a rally in November and one on December 12. They were taken out of context and out of relevance.
‘All of these horrible sounding conversations need to be put in to context. Some of them are observations, like “this is getting bad” or “this is going in a bad direction.”
‘But saying “we think there will be a civil war” does not mean they wanted to start one,’ Moseley said.
He added that unlike the others named in the indictment, Rhodes wasn’t ‘dumb enough’ to go inside.
Earlier, Rhodes’ ex-wife had appeared on CNN to call him a ‘sociopath’ who she said she lived in fear of. She said she felt ‘so much relief’ when she read that he was in custody, and that ‘it felt like there was a weight’ that had been lifted.
‘I lived in fear that he might show up here. Just setting that weight down, knowing I’m safe and that my kids are safe, my kids school doesn’t have to worry. That was a kind of relief I didn’t know existed,’ Tasha Adams said.
‘He is a dangerous man. He is very dangerous. He lives very much in his own head, he sees himself as a great leader. He almost has his own mythology of himself. I think he almost made it come true as seeing himself as a figure in history.
‘He’s a complete sociopath. He doesn’t feel empathy for anyone around.’
The indictment describes how Rhodes galvanized his followers in the weeks and months after Biden won the election.
Last week, prosecutors released photos of a member of the Oath Keepers wheeling in bins of weapons, ammunitions and supplies to a hotel just outside of Washington, D.C., the day before the January 6 riot.
Prosecutors said that days before the riot, Edward Vallejo texted Florida lead team Kelly Meggs: ‘Requesting coordinates to Allied encampment outside DC boundaries to rendezvous. Please respond ASAP. For the Republic.’
Meggs was arrested last week and charged along with his wife, Connie. They are accused of conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and other crimes.
The day before the riot, ‘Meggs and his Florida team dropped off at least three luggage carts’ worth of gun boxes, rifle cases, and suitcases filled with ammunition with their QRF (quick reaction force) team.
‘A second QRF team from North Carolina consisted of four men who kept their rifles ready to go in a vehicle parked in the hotel lot,’ prosecutors say.
Surveillance video shows Vallejo and other members wheeling the large black bins through the hotel.
On January 6 at 2:24 p.m., Vallejo messaged a group chat on the encrypted messaging app Signal, prosecutors said.
‘Vallejo back at hotel and outfitted. Have 2 trucks available. Let me know how I can assist,’ he wrote. Minutes later, he added, ‘QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word…’
Vallejo and his team ultimately didn’t have to bring the weapons to the Capitol since the group was able to breach the building without them.
OATH KEEPERS: THE FAR-RIGHT MILITIA GROUP THAT BELIEVES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PLANS TO IMPOSE MARTIAL LAW
Rhodes, a Yale Law graduate and Army paratrooper, founded the Oath Keepers in 2009
Elmer Stewart Rhodes, a former US Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate from Texas, started the Oath Keepers in 2009, and the group has grown into one of the nation’s largest anti-government militias.
Many supporters – two thirds – are former members of the military or law enforcement, who see the far-right group as upholding the constitution. Around 10 per cent are active duty, The Atlantic reported in November 2020.
They follow a list of 10 ‘Orders We Will Not Obey’ including forcing Americans into concentration camps, confiscating their guns and cooperating with foreign troops in the United States.
The list is derived from the idea that the federal government intends on imposing martial law and turning the country into a one-world socialistic government known as the ‘New World Order.’
By 2011, Rhodes claimed he had members in every state.
The Atlantic obtained a database of members, reporting: ‘There was a sheriff in Colorado, a SWAT-team member in Indiana, a police patrolman in Miami, the chief of a small police department in Illinois.
‘There were members of the Special Forces, private military contractors, an Army psyops sergeant major, a cavalry scout instructor in Texas, a grunt in Afghanistan.
‘There were Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, a 20-year special agent in the Secret Service, and two people who said they were in the FBI.’
In 2013, the group announced the planned formation of ‘Citizen Preservation’ militias meant to defend Americans against the New World Order.
In 2014, Oath Keeper members joined an armed standoff between federal officials and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing rights on government land.
Later that year and in 2015, members patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, amid protests over the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. They wore camouflage body armor and openly carried rifles.
Rhodes had his group patrol the polls in an activity they called Operation Sabot during the 2016 Presidential election.
Rhodes and Oath Keepers supported Trump during his presidency.
During this time, Rhodes became increasingly conspiratorial, adopting and peddling a number of fringe right-wing conspiracy theories with the assistance of his friend Alex Jones.
These ideas included false claims that a large illegal voting operation was coordinated ahead of the 2016 general election, and that migrants from Central and South America were being encouraged to move to the United States to change the demographics.