Oath Keepers leader, 10 others charged with seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Founder of far-right Oath Keepers militia group, 10 others charged with seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, has been arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said Thursday.

Rhodes is the highest-ranking member of an extremist group to be arrested in the deadly siege and it is the first time the Justice Department has brought a seditious conspiracy charge in connection with the attack on the Capitol.

Stewart Rhodes, 56, was arrested Thursday in Little Elm, Texas.

Rhodes is charged along with more than a dozen other members and associates of the Oath Keepers, who authorities say came to Washington intent on stopping the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

Rhodes did not enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6 but is accused of helping put into motion the violence that disrupted the certification of the vote.

The Oath Keepers case is the largest conspiracy case federal authorities have brought so far over Jan. 6, when thousands of pro-Trump rioters stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, injuring dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

A US Department of Justice News Release read in part, “A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment yesterday (Wednesday), which was unsealed today (Thursday)… According to court documents, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, 56, of Granbury, Texas, who is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers; and Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, are being charged for the first time in connection with events leading up to and including Jan. 6. Rhodes was arrested this morning in Little Elm, Texas, and Vallejo was arrested this morning in Phoenix.”

Others indicted with “Seditious Conspiracy” were previously charged defendants in the Capitol riot included: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.

Indictment alleges following the 2020 Presidential Election, Rhodes conspired with his co-defendants and others to oppose by force the transfer of presidential power by Jan. 20, 2021.

The indictment claims beginning in late December 2020, via encrypted and private communications applications, Rhodes and various co-conspirators coordinated and planned to travel to Washington, D.C., on or around Jan. 6, 2021, the date of the certification of the electoral college vote, the indictment alleges. Rhodes and several co-conspirators made plans to bring weapons to the area to support the operation. The co-conspirators then traveled across the country to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area in early January 2021.

Indictment alleges, Hackett, Harrelson, Meggs, Moerschel and Watkins, and other Oath Keepers and affiliates marched in a “stack” formation up the east steps of the Capitol, joined a mob, and made their way into the Capitol.

Later, another group of Oath Keepers and associates, including James, Minuta, and Ulrich, formed a second “stack” and breached the Capitol grounds, marching from the west side to the east side of the Capitol building and up the east stairs and into the building.

(The Hill also contributed to this report)

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