Susan Walsh / AP
The Justice Department on Thursday unveiled seditious conspiracy charges against far-right group leader Oath Keepers and 10 others, alleging they plotted to disrupt the election process on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and endanger former Vice President Mike Pence.
Federal authorities arrested Oath Keepers chief Stewart Rhodes in Texas on Thursday morning and also took Edward Vallejo into custody in Arizona. The other nine people had already been charged with certain crimes related to the siege of the Capitol last year.
District of Columbia grand jury indictment is the most serious and sweeping case to come out of the federal Capitol Riot inquiry and the first to include the seditious, punishable conspiracy charge a maximum of 20 years in prison.
As recently as last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland outlined the sprawling investigation and promised that “the steps we have taken so far will not be the last.”
The Justice Department said the Oath Keepers were determined to stop the legal transfer of power, with two groups marching in military-style formations towards the Capitol that day and other staff labeled “rapid reaction forces. “waiting outside DC to transport guns and other weapons. Vallejo would have helped coordinate one of those rapid reaction teams.
Court documents said the defendants organized teams to use force and bring firearms to the Capitol, recruited members to participate and organized trainings, and brought paramilitary equipment, knives, batons and radio equipment. in Washington.
Rhodes communicated with other executives on Jan.6 using a focus group on the encrypted application Signal, according to court documents.
“Pence doesn’t do anything. Like I predicted,” Rhodes typed to the group that day. “All I see Trump is complaining. I don’t see any intention of him to do anything. So the Patriots are taking matters into their own hands. They’ve had enough.”
Rhodes compared the actions of the Oath Keepers that day to “the founding generation” who tarred and feathered tax collectors and “threw tea in the water,” according to court documents.
“Next is our ‘Lexington’,” Rhodes wrote. “It happens.”
Authorities said the plot continued even after the insurgency, which injured at least 140 law enforcement officials.
Five officers who reported for work on January 6 have since died.