DCR Crime: The leaders of the white supremacists group Oath Keepers stand trial today. ☕☕☕

Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves the leaders of a White supremacist group stand trial for crimes committed during the January 6, insurrection.

Leaders of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes and other members of the white supremacists extremist group, face seditious conspiracy and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Opening statements are underway

Rhodes and four co-defendants, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell have pleaded not guilty to felony charges alleging that they conspired for weeks after the 2020 presidential election to unleash political violence to oppose the lawful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

Rhodes and his co-defendants have said their actions were defensive, taken in anticipation of what they believed would be a lawful order from President Donald Trump deputizing armed groups under the Insurrection Act to stop Joe Biden from becoming president.

Just before the trial session began Monday, Judge Amit P. Mehta denied multiple motions filed over the weekend in which defendants tried to keep a D.C. jury from determining their guilt or innocence. Defendant Kelly Meggs asked for Mehta to decide his fate rather than the jury, saying through his attorney that the jury could not be “fair and impartial” because “the majority of those questioned” as part of the jury pool “had negative feelings about the events of January 6, 2021.” He and the other four defendants also asked for the trial to be moved to a federal court in Virginia, for similar reasons.

Mehta rejected both requests. Of the 12 jurors and four alternates selected for the trial, “none … had heard of any of these defendants,” he said. All said they could be fair and impartial. “My sense is this a very diligent group of citizens, all of whom are going to abide by the court’s instructions,” the judge said.

Stewart Rhodes could reveal new information about the quest to subvert the 2020 presidential election results as prosecutors continue to probe President Donald Trump’s conduct and that of his inner circle. Prosecutors challenge will be to prove that Rhodes, one of the most visible figures of the far-right anti-government movement, and his group intentionally conspired to use force to prevent President Biden’s swearing-in. Whether the government tips its hand in court about the Oath Keepers’ ties to other political figures, the trial is an important step in the wider probe, according to analysts.

Investigators continue to ask cooperating members of the Oath Keepers who have pleaded guilty about their knowledge of any coordination with others, according to defense attorneys. And they would welcome cooperation from those on trial, even if it came after convictions and the prospect of prison, according to former prosecutors.

A jury of 12 members and four alternates was selected on Thursday in the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members of the extremist group who face seditious conspiracy and other charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Opening statements are set for Monday. Vetting over three days revealed a political and cultural clash that posed tests both for the Justice Department led by prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and defense attorneys for the leaders of the right-wing anti government Oath Keepers, whose movement recruits members willing to prepare themselves for eventual battle to prevent federal tyranny.

After sketching out the alleged Oath Keepers conspiracy, prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler told jurors a brief legislative history that, until the 2020 election, was obscure. It’s “a weird quirk” of our system, he said, that the winner of the presidential election isn’t officially the winner when ballots are done being counted in November. “Under the Constitution, it is not official until Congress says so, and Congress has to say so on Jan. 6.” Moreover, “the vice president of the United States must be the person to preside over the session.” The Oath Keepers exploited that quirk, Nestler said, to try to stop Joe Biden from taking office.

As part of the planning to interrupt the congressional proceedings on Jan. 6, 2021, the Oath Keepers staged weapons in a hotel across the river from D.C., in a hotel in Arlington, “to physically prevent members of Congress from certifying the election,” federal prosecutor Jeffrey S. Nestler said in his opening statement. Making an agreement to do that, even if it wasn’t in writing or spoken specifically, qualifies as a conspiracy, Nestler said.
Nestler pointed out each of the five defendants in the courtroom to the jury, starting with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. Nestler explained that Oath Keepers recruits largely from former members of the military and law enforcement. He said that “the term Oath Keepers derives from soldiers’ oaths to defend the constitution against all enemies, and the idea that oath must be kept for life. But Rhodes perverts that oath. He says they should disobey orders that he says are unconstitutional.”

Credit: The Washington Post, New York Times, Washington Chronicles.

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