© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police clear the U.S. Capitol with tear gas as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather outside, in Washington, U.S. January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo
By Chris Gallagher
(Reuters) – Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four other defendants with links to the far-right militia group will go on trial next week on charges of ambitious conspiracy arising from the June 6 attacks January 2021 into the US Capitol at that time- Supporters of President Donald Trump.
Below is information about the defendants who will appear in court on September 27 and the charges they face.
Rhodes, 57, of Granbury, Texas, is a former U.S. Army paratrooper turned lawyer trained at Yale University. He is the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers. According to the Justice Department, the group believes the federal government is infringing on its rights, focusing on recruiting current and former members of the military, police and emergency services.
Rhodes, as well as his accomplices, are accused of conspiring to prevent the peaceful transition of presidential power in a failed attempt to prevent Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in the presidential election. election 2020. Rhodes and the other defendants face the rarely prosecuted count of conspiracy, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and is defined as attempting to “overturn” overthrow, bring down, or destroy by force the government of the United States.”
He and other defendants also face charges including obstruction of an official proceeding and forging documents. Rhodes and the others pleaded not guilty.
According to the indictment, Rhodes began encouraging followers of his Oath-Keepers in November 2020 to “protest by forcibly the legal transfer of presidential power.” Trump has falsely claimed that the election was stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.
Rhodes set up a conversation on the encrypted messaging app Signal, in which members planned to visit the Capitol on January 6, when Congress is expected to certify Biden’s victory, according to the indictment. . Rhodes spent thousands of dollars on firearms and related equipment before and after January 6, the indictment states.
He entered restricted areas of the Capitol on January 6, instructing members of the Oath Keepers via text and phone about positions to take around the building, and continued conspiring with accomplices after the attack, according to the indictment.
Caldwell, 68, of Berryville, Virginia, helped coordinate preparations for what the Oath-Keepers call a rapid response force, or QRF, ready to move weapons quickly into Washington from just outside. city to support operations around the Capitol, according to the indictment.
The indictment said Caldwell, a retired US Navy lieutenant who worked for the FBI, made a reconnaissance trip into Washington in November 2020, choosing a hotel in the suburbs of Arlington, Virginia, as a job. Response force operations base and mapping routes to the Capitol from the hotel.
During the January 6 attack, Caldwell, along with others, overcame barricades and climbed stairs to a balcony in a restricted area on the west side of the Capitol building, according to the indictment.
Caldwell has denied he was a member of the Oath Keepers but prosecutors said he had close ties to the group.
Meggs, 53, of Dunnellon, Florida, was the head of the Florida Oath-Keepers chapter and led the first group of members into the Capitol on January 6, according to the indictment.
Meggs and other members of the Oath-Keepers, many in paramilitary clothing and patches bearing the Oath-Keeper insignia, marched in an organized military fashion up the eastern steps of the Oath-Keepers. Capitol and burst through a series of heavy doors into the building along with a mob, the indictment said.
Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida, helped Meggs organize the Florida Vow Keepers and was part of a militia group that stormed the Capitol building, according to the indictment.
These members came forward as part of a mob that “attacked law enforcement officers guarding the doors, throwing objects and spraying chemicals at officers and doors, and pulling door rudely,” the indictment added. Harrelson and others then moved toward the House to find Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, but could not find her, it said.
Watkins, 40, of Woodstock, Ohio, led the Ohio Oath-Keepers team at the Capitol on January 6, according to the indictment. According to the indictment, the Afghan veteran stormed the building and ordered those around him to resist the ranks of officers guarding the corridor leading to the Senate chambers, before retreating when officers used chemical spray cans. learn.
Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins also face charges of destroying government property due to damage that occurred at the Capitol building, according to the indictment.
Three other defendants of the Oath Keepers – Joshua James, Brian Ulrich and William Todd Wilson – pleaded guilty this year to participating in an ambitious conspiracy related to the attack. They are awaiting sentencing and may be called as witnesses at the trial.