Eleven members of the Oath Keepers, including the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, were indicted on Jan. 12 by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for an alleged “seditious conspiracy” to attack the U.S. Capitol and prevent the certification of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election.
The indictment, which was unsealed on Jan. 13, brings the first Jan. 6, 2021-related charges against Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas; and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix. Rhodes faces a count of seditious conspiracy and four other charges; Vallejo is charged with seditious conspiracy and three other counts.
It’s the first federal indictment alleging seditious conspiracy on Jan. 6, a charge that, upon conviction, carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Rhodes is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, a nationwide group of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responders who seek to defend and preserve constitutional rights, based on the oath they took to defend the United States from “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
The indictment includes new charges against nine previously charged Jan. 6 defendants: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia; and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.
In addition to their previous charges, the defendants are charged with seditious conspiracy and other Jan. 6 offenses. Among the other charges are destruction of government property, civil disorder, tampering with documents or proceedings, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, according to the indictment.
Jonathon Moseley, a Washington-based attorney who represents Meggs in his criminal case and Rhodes in his upcoming appearance before the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, blasted the indictment as a publicity ploy.
“This is just a public relations gloss on the existing facts,” Moseley told The Epoch Times in a statement. “Faced with criticism from leading Democrats for not supporting their leftist narrative, the prosecutors have just slapped a new label on the false allegations already made. But I see no facts that would support the new charges.
“Furthermore, the U.S. Attorney and his prosecutors know that they are lying. They have known since March to May 2021 that every allegation they are making is a lie,” he said. “We have the documents. We have the proof. They know that we know that this prosecution is a total lie. And yet they are forging ahead with prosecutorial misconduct.”
William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, declined to comment on Moseley’s assertions.
“We typically do not comment on cases beyond what is stated or filed in court,” Miller said.
Eight other Oath Keepers previously charged in the sweeping Jan. 6 investigation are defendants in two related cases, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
In one of those cases, charges were leveled against James Beeks, 49, of Orlando, Florida; Donovan Crowl, 51, of Cable, Ohio; William Isaacs, 22, of Kissimmee, Florida; Connie Meggs, 60, of Dunnellon, Florida; Sandra Parker, 63, and Bernie Parker, 71, of Morrow, Ohio; and Laura Steele, 53, of Thomasville, North Carolina. The third case involves charges against Jonathan Walden, 57, of Birmingham, Alabama.
The 19 defendants named in the three indictments are charged with corruptly obstructing an official proceeding. Eighteen of the 19 defendants face charges of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiring to prevent an officer of the United States from discharging a duty. Eleven of the 19 are charged with seditious conspiracy.
The first indictment charges that following the Nov. 3, 2020, presidential election, Rhodes conspired with the other defendants to “oppose by force” the transfer of presidential power to Joseph Biden Jr. from Donald J. Trump. The group communicated using encrypted message applications to lay out plans to travel to Washington for the Jan. 6 certification of Electoral College votes.
Rhodes and several alleged co-conspirators planned to bring weapons to support the operation, while others were organized into teams that were trained in paramilitary tactics, the indictment charges. The groups planned to bring gear that included knives, batons, camouflaged uniforms, tactical vests with protective plates, helmets, eye protection, and radio equipment.
According to the Department of Justice summary of the alleged conspiracy, at about 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 6—30 minutes after protesters and rioters breached the Capitol building—a group of Oath Keepers marched in a “stack” formation up the Capitol’s east steps and “joined a mob and made their way into the Capitol.” A stack is a military-style tactical formation used to breach buildings.
Later, a second group made another stack formation, marched from the west to the east side of the Capitol, up the stairs, and into the building, the Department of Justice said in a statement. Other Oath Keepers remained outside the city in “quick-reaction force” (QRF) teams, “ready to transport firearms and other weapons into Washington D.C. in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power,” the DOJ statement said.
Moseley suggested the indictment is nothing more than a restatement of previous charges.
“I look forward to drinks on Kelly Meggs’s new yacht after the civil lawsuits for malicious prosecution,” he said.
Moseley said he was on the phone with Rhodes discussing his upcoming appearance before the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol when the FBI called Rhodes.
“He patched me in on the call and I identified myself as his lawyer. The FBI special agent said they were outside and he needed to come out with his hands up and be arrested,” Moseley told The Epoch Times. Moseley said he stayed on the line for 10 minutes “before they hung up the phone.”