Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial kicks off with jury selection

WASHINGTON — Jury selection began Tuesday in the seditious conspiracy trial against Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes and four co-conspirators charged with conspiring to prevent the transfer of presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Several of the jurors recalled the emotions they felt on January 6, 2021, as a torrent of Trump supporters crashed through the barricades and forced their way into the US Capitol, where Congress is meeting. gathered to officially certify the Electoral College tally that made Biden the winner. .

A District of Columbia resident was angry at the threat the rioters posed to his two young children, saying, “I felt like they were invading my house.

Another said the violent scene brought tears to his eyes. Many recalled worrying about friends or co-workers who might have been in danger.

The Oath Keepers trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is the Justice Department’s biggest case yet against any of the Capitol Rioters, with the seditious conspiracy charge carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars. So far, the longest sentence given to any of the rioters was 10 years, to a veteran of the New York Police Department.

If the jurors ultimately side with the prosecutors, it will bolster the government’s claim that the events of January 6, 2021 were an existential threat to American democracy.

But on Tuesday, District Judge Amit Mehta’s courtroom reflected the challenges of selecting jurors in such a high-profile case, where many have personal ties to the federal government.

Mehta said he thinks it would be impossible to expect potential jurors to completely ignore the events of Jan. 6, 2021. Coverage of the Capitol Riot permeated television, radio and digital media. while it was happening and in its immediate aftermath, and he continues to appear regularly as the House Select Committee continues its investigation.

Some jurors were removed from their duties for having been exposed to too much media coverage of the attack. Others were dismissed for bias against the defendants, although 40% of jurors were found to have not heard of the Oath Keepers.

Mehta revealed he did not expect either side to seek testimony from Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is close to another extremist group that allegedly helped plan the attack, the Proud Boys. Mehta also didn’t expect to hear from Proud Boys frontman Enrique Tarrio.

The trial is expected to last approximately five weeks; lawyers for the defendants estimated that it could be up to seven years.

A few Oath Keepers supporters showed up to watch the proceedings. One woman sported a t-shirt that read ‘Justice for Political Prisoners J6’, while another wore a rubber wristband bearing the name of Ashli ​​Babbitt – the rioter who was fatally shot by the law enforcement inside the Capitol.

Two other trials in which Capitol rioters are charged with seditious conspiracy are set to begin later this year: one for another group of Oath Keepers and another for a group of Proud Boys. Several Oathkeepers have already agreed to cooperate with the government and entered into plea agreements; others are awaiting trial on various charges.


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