A group of Oath Keepers defendants has renewed a call for a change of venue or a trial delay due to “undeniable prejudice” from the negative publicity generated by the House January 6 Select Committee.
“The Rhodes defendants renew their request for a change of venue in this matter or, in the alternative, to continue the current trial date until 2023 based upon the undeniable prejudice that exists in this District’s jury pool following recent congressional hearings,” the motion reads, referring to Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes III.
District Judge Amit Mehta previously denied an Oath Keepers motion to change the trial venue from Washington D.C. to Virginia.
“These hearings—particularly the most recent one—have caused irreparable harm to the ability of the Rhodes defendants to obtain a fair trial in the District,” the motion said.
Deny 'Outrageous Claims'The motion was particularly critical of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland), who said the Oath Keepers are “extremists who promote a wide range of conspiracy theories and sought to act as a private paramilitary force for Donald Trump.”
In his opening statement at the hearing, Raskin contended that the events of Jan. 6, 2021, were perpetrated by “the dangerous extremists in the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys and other far-right racist and white nationalist groups spoiling for a fight.”
“To be clear, the Rhodes defendants dispute Raskin’s outrageous claims,” the motion said. “They dispute that they are ‘racists,’ ‘white supremacists,’ or ‘domestic extremists.’ They dispute that they had an alliance with the Proud Boys to attack the Capitol. They dispute that there was a plan to attack the Capitol. They dispute that there was an ‘insurrection’ on J6.”
A superseding indictment filed on June 22 in Washington D.C. federal court accuses Rhodes and eight others of a variety of January 6-related crimes, including seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, civil disorder, and destruction of government property. The first group of Oath Keepers is scheduled for trial on Sept. 26.
'False and Incendiary' TestimonyThe motion disputed “false and incendiary” testimony given at the July 12 hearing by Jason Van Tatenhove, a one-time spokesman for the Oath Keepers.
Van Tatenhove claimed the Oath Keepers are a “violent militia” and a “very dangerous organization,” the motion said. Van Tatenhove claimed former President Donald Trump was “communicating, whether directly or indirectly” with Rhodes. The motion said Van Tatenhove has had no contact with Rhodes for five years.
“Van Tatenhove’s claim that the Oath Keepers intended to start a ‘bloody revolution’ on J6 is now seared into the minds of the District’s jury pool as fact,” said the motion, written by attorney David Fischer. “Additionally, a two-minute search of his Twitter account reveals that Van Tatenhove is a staunch left-wing activist tied to causes such as gun control, feminism, and climate change, and who regularly does a ‘counter-culture’ podcast.”
Van Tatenhove has admitted he joined the Oath Keepers so he could write a book about the organization, the motion said. He is selling an audiobook on the Oath Keepers, the document said.
“Yet the D.C. jury pool knows none of this discrediting information, or even that Van Tatenhove has publicly claimed to have had multiple encounters with UFOs,” the motion read.
The House committee’s meetings are not truly hearings, the motion said, because witnesses are not subjected to cross-examination and evidence includes “carefully edited excerpts” from videos and depositions.
'Likely Inadmissable'Oath Keepers defense attorneys also took aim at federal prosecutors for publicly filing a motion containing “incendiary, dubious spin” on “likely inadmissible evidence.”
Prosecutors also alleged that defendant Caldwell kept a “death list” of Georgia election officials. The motion said that the document “is not a ‘list’ but, rather, a doodle pad where the words ‘death list’ are written separate and apart from, and in different ink than, the names of Georgia election workers.”
The January 6 Select Committee said it plans to release more than 1,000 transcripts of interviews and depositions from its investigation. “While a portion of the transcripts to be released by the committee will have no relevance to the Rhodes defendants, defense counsel predict that many transcripts will be highly relevant and potentially exculpatory in nature,” the motion said.
The motion cited a delay granted to a group of Proud Boys defendants in June because of potential adverse effects from the Select Committee’s hearings. That trial was moved to December.
“…Tuesday’s hearing generated a mountain of prejudicial press coverage that has served to prejudice further an already heavily biased jury pool,” the filing said. “Moreover, the committee will be holding an additional hearing and intends to issue a detailed report in September which, again, will thrust J6 and the prejudicial assertions about the Oath Keepers back into the spotlight, just before a jury is to be picked.”