Oath Keepers founder despatched 'torches and pitchforks' message, prosecutors inform Jan. 6 riot trial

Prosecutors urged members of a jury to convict Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and 4 others for his or her roles in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying they shaped an “armed riot” to disrupt the peaceable swap of vitality.

“They concocted a plan for an armed riot to shatter a bedrock of yank democracy,” prosecutor Jeff Nestler acknowledged on Monday in a spot assertion at their trial in federal court docket in Washington, D.C.

Rhodes advised his followers in the course of the strategy planning stage that “will in all probability be torches and pitchforks time in the event that they [Congress] do not do the proper factor,” primarily based on a message he despatched to his followers that was proven to the jury by prosecutors.

Rhodes and his co-defendants, Kelly Meggs, Thomas Caldwell, Jessica Watkins and Kenneth Harrelson, are accused of plotting to forcefully forestall the U.S. Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory in a failed bid to maintain then-president Donald Trump, a Republican, in vitality.

Nestler acknowledged that on election day, Nov. three, Meggs had advised his spouse, Connie, who’s criminally charged in a separate case, “i am gonna go on a killing spree. Pelosi first.” It was a reference to accommodate of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most interesting Democrat in Congress.

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol after Trump falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him by way of widespread fraud. 5 of us died all by way of and shortly after the riot, and about one hundred forty cops have been injured.

Case for seditious conspiracy

The 5 on trial face pretty a pair of felony expenses, collectively with seditious conspiracy —a Civil battle-period statute that is hardly ever prosecuted and carries a statutory most sentence of 20 years in jail.

Prosecutors have acknowledged the 5 defendants educated and deliberate for Jan. 6 and stockpiled weapons at a northern Virginia resort outdoors the capital for a “quick response strain” that will be ready if referred to as upon to maneuver arms into Washington.

Rioters loyal to then-president Donald Trump try to open a door of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021., to cease the certification of Biden’s election victory. (Jose Luis Magana/The associated Press)

As lawmakers met on Jan. 6 to certify Biden’s election victory, some Oath Keepers charged into the Capitol constructing, clad in paramilitary gear. they are not accused of carrying firearms onto Capitol grounds.

the federal authorities has characterised the Oath Keepers as a far-proper anti-authorities group, a pair of of whose members have ties to militias. a quantity of the members embody current and former navy and regulation enforcement personnel.

Founder says it is a non-partisan group

Rhodes, a Yale-educated lawyer and former U.S. navy paratrooper, has disputed the authorities’s characterization, saying it is a non-partisan group whose members have pledged to defend the U.S. structure.

Philip Linder, one in all Rhodes’s attorneys, promised the jury his consumer, whom he described as “terribly patriotic,” would take the stand to clarify his facet of the story.

He acknowledged the “exact proof” inside the trial will current that the defendants have been in Washington on Jan. 5 and 6 to current safety to a quantity of audio system at political rallies.

‘Who’s prepared to die?’ textual content material message

In opening statements on Monday, nonetheless, federal prosecutors painted a particular picture. They confirmed movies, texts and completely different posts by defendants from earlier than, all by way of and after the Capitol assault.

Watkins, one in all many defendants, advised members of her native Ohio chapter that “i would like you stopping match by [inauguration],” whereas Meggs advised followers from the Florida Oath Keepers that “the time for communicate is over. the exact question is who’s prepared to DIE?” primarily based on textual content material messages proven by the prosecution.

On the day of the assault, Nestler acknowledged Watkins led a gaggle of seven Oath Keepers in direction of the Senate facet of the Capitol.

As she stormed down the hallway with the “vitality of the mob collectively with her,” Nestler acknowledged she yelled “Push, push, push!”

He acknowledged that Watkins added: “they will not maintain us.”

Defendants Meggs and Harrelson, in the meantime, led a gaggle of seven Oath Keepers in direction of the dwelling of Representatives facet of the Capitol, the place Nestler acknowledged they regarded particularly for Pelosi.

although Trump’s shadow will loom large over the trial, he isn’t anticipated to be a central decide inside the case.

U.S. District decide Amit Mehta, who’s presiding over the trial, beforehand restricted the defendants from using a “public authority” defence, that means they will not declare they stormed the Capitol at Trump’s course.