EXCLUSIVE: Jan. 6 Oath Keepers Prosecution is a 'Lie' and a 'Setup,' Former General Counsel Says

EXCLUSIVE: Jan. 6 Oath Keepers Prosecution is a 'Lie' and a 'Setup,' Former General Counsel Says
Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III has said the group did not attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
Joseph M. Hanneman

The high-profile prosecution of the Oath Keepers for alleged seditious conspiracy to prevent the transfer of presidential power in January 2021 is “all a lie” based on a government "setup" carried out by a weaponized criminal justice system, the group’s former general counsel says.

Kellye SoRelle, 43, who was arrested Sept. 1 and charged by federal prosecutors (pdf) with four crimes related to January 6 at the U.S. Capitol, made the remarks in a previously unpublished interview with The Epoch Times.
Attorneys in the Sept. 27 trial of four Oath Keepers and one associate expressed dismay in recent court hearings with the timing of SoRelle’s arrest and what it might mean for their cases.
Attorney Kellye SoRelle (LinkedIn)
Attorney Kellye SoRelle (LinkedIn)

Before her indictment, defense attorneys hoped she would testify for their clients. After her arrest, SoRelle told a D.C.-based reporter that she would exercise her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called to the stand in the Oath Keepers cases.

In a Sept. 14 hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy pushed back on the idea that defense witnesses were being indicted to prevent them from testifying for the Oath Keepers.

“The government is not going out and arresting people because they are witnesses,” Rakoczy said.

In her Epoch Times interview, SoRelle expressed a firm belief in the innocence of the Oath Keepers.

“I'm 100-percent convinced at this point that they were set up,” SoRelle said in the interview on March 28, 2022.

Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III was among 11 Oath Keepers indicted on Jan. 12, 2022, charged with seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent any officer from discharging any duties, among other January 6 counts.

Two of those charged—Joshua James and Brian Ulrich—pleaded guilty under deals with federal prosecutors earlier this year. Five other Oath Keepers-related defendants—Graydon Young, Jason Dolan, Mark Grods, Caleb Berry, and William Todd Wilson—took plea deals and are cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Oath Keepers Trial

Rhodes and four co-defendants will go on trial on Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

SoRelle, an attorney from Granbury, Texas, said if the Oath Keepers were truly plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, they would have been on a much different time schedule.

“I have not been talking to him [Rhodes] so that nobody can accuse me of trying to coordinate anything with him,” she said. “I never, ever knew of any plan, and here's their biggest—I’m gonna cuss—[expletive] problem with their narrative is why were the Oath Keepers so late to the game?”

SoRelle said she and Rhodes were watching television coverage of the joint session of Congress from a nearby hotel on the afternoon of January 6. When word of unrest came on television the pair headed to the Capitol to find the Oath Keepers, she said.

“We were trying to find the stage and the guys because he was trying to round everybody up to get them out of the chaos,” SoRelle said. “And, you know, basically, get heads and tails of where everybody was. He wasn't like, ‘Hey, go run in there and cause some [expletive].’”

The Oath Keepers had been assigned to provide security at an authorized rally organized by Stop the Steal founder Ali Alexander. Alexander had a permit for the rally on Capitol grounds across from the U.S. Supreme Court. The event never took place due to the crush of massive crowds that came over from President Donald Trump’s speech at the Ellipse.

“I was there and I watched it,” SoRelle said. “I know it's all [expletive]. Like, I just know, because I was around those guys.

“Even if I wanted to say I'm naive, and they really did have a plan, and they just kept it from me, I was just around them, you know. They still didn't do what you would have done if you were the ones that were actually instigating things.”

Prosecutors allege that two formations of Oath Keepers entered the Capitol with the intention of disrupting the counting of Electoral College votes. Rhodes and defense attorneys have said the Oath Keepers who went into the Capitol did not do so under anyone’s orders, and they were not seeking to disrupt Congress, which had already adjourned.

Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Johnson and two members of the Oath Keepers enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to rescue 16 trapped police officers. (Rico La Starza, Archive.org/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Johnson and two members of the Oath Keepers enter the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to rescue 16 trapped police officers. (Rico La Starza, Archive.org/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

While they were inside, some of the Oath Keepers intervened in a loud dispute between protesters and a U.S. Capitol Police officer in the Small House Rotunda, according to witnesses and cell phone video. Oath Keepers reported that the officer was holding his M4 rifle in “low ready” position, and they feared he might fire on the crowd.

Two Oath Keepers who were not part of the two groups that went into the Capitol assisted Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Johnson in the rescue of 16 riot-gear-clad officers. Johnson wore a Make America Great Again ballcap when he encountered the Oath Keepers on the lower east terrace and asked for help.

Johnson led the Oath Keepers through the Columbus Doors into the Capitol. They emerged a short time later, leading a column of police down the east steps.

“They're protecting officers inside. It’s exactly opposite of what they're portraying,” SoRelle said of prosecutors. “And it pisses me off to no end.”

SoRelle acknowledged the violence that took place across Capitol grounds on January 6, acts that she said should be punished. That wasn’t the Oath Keepers, she said.

Two Oath Keepers inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The first Oath Keepers criminal trial is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2022. (U.S. DOJ/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
Two Oath Keepers inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The first Oath Keepers criminal trial is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2022. (U.S. DOJ/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

“Do I think people had bad intentions? Yes. Do I think those bad-intentioned people are the ones that initiated a lot of that crap?” she asked. “Yes. Can you locate them and identify them? Yes. Can you go so far as to claim seditious conspiracy on Oath Keepers? Hell no.”

SoRelle said she got to know Oath Keepers members because they served as her security detail after she received death threats from her work investigating 2020 election fraud. Court papers indicate she and Rhodes were a couple at one point.

“Stewart is very honest. Stewart did not have a clue what the hell he was being set up for,” SoRelle said. “I have faith in these guys. I talked to all of them. Like I know where their hearts were and I was around them at the time. Never once did I ever hear anybody saying, ‘Let's go do this.’”

Court papers filed in the plea agreement of Oath Keepers member James accused SoRelle of advising Rhodes and other Oath Keepers on a Jan. 8, 2021, encrypted chat to delete any incriminating evidence.

“STEWART: YOU ALL NEED TO DELETE ANY OF YOUR COMMENTS REGARDING WHO DID WHAT,” the document quotes SoRelle as saying. “You are under zero obligation to leave them up. You/we have not yet gotten a preservation order instructing us to retain those chat comments. So DELETE THEM. . . . So GET BUSY. DELETE your self-incriminating comments or those that can incriminate others. Start now.”

Some of the Oath Keepers are charged with crimes for allegedly deleting content on their electronic devices. At least one defendant in the upcoming Oath Keepers trial indicated he might use “advice of counsel” as a defense. SoRelle is charged with obstruction of justice—tampering with documents in her criminal case. She pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The FBI seized SoRelle's phone in 2021 and she sat for an interview in which they asked if she knew anyone storing up weapons and ammunition, she said.

"I told them, I just kind of like waved my hands around and said, 'Pick a neighbor,' you know. And I said, 'That's why this is relevant.' And one of the agents that was there, he had like a vest on, he reaches up and he pulls his vest back. And underneath was his shooting range that he owns. And he said, Trust me when I tell you I understand.'"

SoRelle disputed prosecutors’ claims that a cache of weapons brought to a Virginia hotel by Rhodes and other Oath Keepers was to be used in an attack on the Capitol. Rhodes has said the arms were legal and only a contingency in case Trump invoked the Insurrection Act and called up a militia to protect the White House or other buildings from feared attacks by Antifa.

“If they were offensive in nature, their guns would not be in Virginia,” SoRelle said. “That is indicative of defense.”

Members of the Oath Keepers move down the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Epoch TV)
Members of the Oath Keepers move down the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. (Epoch TV)

SoRelle said she has hashed the entire day over in her mind against the backdrop of an ever-present media narrative that labels the Oath Keepers as domestic terrorists.

“I have to battle back and forth in my own mind as to what the intent was because I have to listen to the media's rhetoric,” she said. “And I'm like, was there some crazy stuff? And there just wasn’t. I was around enough people to realize there just wasn’t.”

SoRelle said the prosecution of Joshua James was dishonest. When James entered the Capitol, the video showed him getting in a verbal and physical altercation with a police officer.

“I've got a video of it where you can tell he’s trying to protect a cop,” she said. “Another cop doesn't realize he’s a ‘friendly.’ So a cop starts to hit him, but Josh doesn't realize who it is. So he turns around swinging, thinking it’s some jackass that's getting violent in there.”

She called the prosecution’s evidence a "bull[expletive] narrative" because it left out the peaceful resolution once police realized James wasn’t hostile.

“So it's all a lie. And that's what's frustrating, more than anything else,” SoRelle said.

Rhodes earlier told The Epoch Times that prosecutors used the threat of a possible life sentence to coerce James into his guilty plea, so he could “testi-lie” against the Oath Keepers leader.

SoRelle lamented what she called a “weaponized” criminal justice system that she said targets supporters of Trump.

“I could never, ever do to anyone what the DOJ is doing to the conservatives in this country,” she said. “It would have never crossed my mind. I would never contemplate what political association someone was to determine whether or not I was going to proceed. And that's the problem too ... equal application and equal protection are gone.”

Joseph M. Hanneman is a reporter for The Epoch Times with a focus on the January 6 Capitol incursion and its aftermath, as well as general Wisconsin news. In 2022, he helped to produce "The Real Story of Jan. 6," an Epoch Times documentary about the events that day. Joe has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. He can be reached at: joseph.hanneman@epochtimes.us
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