Oath Keepers trial… Stewart Rhodes fires his lawyers

The federal judge overseeing the seditious conspiracy case against Stewart Rhodes chastised the Oath Keepers founder in court Wednesday for trying to delay a trial that was due to start in three weeks.

Rhodes filed a motion Tuesday afternoon in federal district court, saying he could not continue with his current legal team due to a “complete or near complete breakdown in communication,” and needed at least three months with a new lawyer to file more than a dozen motions.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta called Rhodes’ allegations about the case and his own attorneys “incorrect and frankly disconcerting.” During a nearly two-hour hearing, he dismissed most of Rhodes’ proposed claims as irrelevant, legally inadmissible or redundant.

“Mr. Rhodes at no time…since he was arrested has remained silent,” Mehta said. “Never, not once…did I hear from Mr. Rhodes about his lack of of contact with his lawyers or of his disenchantment with the performance of his lawyers.”

He said Rhodes could add a lawyer to his legal team if he wanted, but he would go on trial in three weeks and his original lawyers, James Lee Bright and Phillip Linder, would not be removed from the court. affair.

Rhodes is accused of conspiring to use force against the federal government and prevent the lawful transfer of power by attacking the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Although he is not charged with entering the building, Prosecutors say he oversaw a group that violently clashed with law enforcement and attempted to cover up evidence of those crimes. Three associates pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy; four will go to trial with him and four more in November.

Delaying would wreak “havoc” on a busy court schedule, Mehta said, and “there is no humanly possible way” that a new lawyer “could be ready in 90 days.” The trial is due to start on September 27; it was previously scheduled for September 26, but last week Mehta ordered a one-day postponement for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

Mehta called it “complete and utter nonsense” to suggest that Rhodes was not competently represented by Bright and Linder, whom he credited with leading efforts to help all defendants prepare for trial. . The two Texas lawyers have represented Rhodes since his arrest in January.

Far from being excluded from the process, Mehta said, Rhodes “was getting a waiver that no other defendant, that I know of – that no other defendant in any case, not just the January 6 cases, but any case in this district, gets .”

Rhodes is imprisoned in DC; U.S. Marshals brought him to court twice a week to review evidence for six straight hours. “No other defendants have this type of accommodation,” Mehta said. The judge acknowledged having attorneys in Texas was a challenge, but said Rhodes chose not to hire a local attorney.

Rhodes’ new attorney, Edward L. Tarpley Jr., wrote that former Rhodes attorneys “do not communicate materially with Rhodes regarding trial preparation, witness discovery, evidence selection, or even Rhodes’ defense strategy. base,” even though “Rhodes graduated from Yale Law School with legal training, experience, and education.

Mehta challenged Rhodes’ legal acumen, saying the self-proclaimed militia leader was making demands that a federal judge had no power to grant, including forcing the House committee investigating the attack of January 6 to transmit information and prohibiting the use of a recording made by a private person. citizen because it might violate state law. “You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know that ‘a First Amendment challenge to the indictment wouldn’t go anywhere,’ Mehta said.

Bright told the court that he rejected some of Rhodes’ proposals on similar grounds, including a “red herring” from the “conspiratorial world”. Others, he said, he had first heard of in Tarpley’s motion.

“I have no ill will towards Mr. Rhodes. I gave seven months of my life to Mr. Rhodes,” he said. But “I’m really tense right now not to tell the court that it’s not a broken relationship.”

At the end of the hearing, he and Rhodes both apologized for accusing each other of lying, and Bright promised to “bend over backwards” to better communicate with his client.

Mehta said the only concern raised by Tarpley that had any merit was that the indictment last week of Kellye SoRelle, former general counsel for the Oath Keepers, “represents a monumental change in the way Rhodes expected to defend themselves”. In court, Linder said that until his arrest, SoRelle had agreed to testify in Rhodes’ defense.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler said the Justice Department told all defendants months ago that SoRelle, who stood on the Capitol grounds with Rhodes on Jan. 6, had “potential criminal exposure.” She is charged with conspiracy to obstruct the congressional vote count and tampering with evidence, among other crimes. She publicly proclaimed her innocence.


Washington

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