By Sarah N. Lynch and Chris Gallagher
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The founder of the far-right group Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, and four others are the first people to stand trial in more than a decade on seditious conspiracy charges for their role in the January 6 attack. 2021. at the United States Capitol.
Rhodes and his four co-defendants, Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins, are accused of conspiring to try to keep Republican Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election. A pro-Trump mob stormed on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 and attacked police, but failed to prevent lawmakers from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
Seditious conspiracy is a crime that is rarely prosecuted under a statute that dates to the Civil War era and is defined as attempting to “overthrow, suffocate, or destroy by force the government of the United States.”
Below are some excerpts from the text messages, online posts, speeches, and other exchanges between members and associates of the group that prosecutors have presented to the jury to prove their case:
— “The response must be to refuse to accept, acknowledge, respect or obey any of these imposters or their so-called legislation…and prepare your gear and be ready to fight.” – November 7, 2020 text message from Rhodes to a group of Oath Keepers.
— “Trump has one last chance, right now, to stand tall. But he will need us and our rifles too. But will he FINALLY act? Only if WE act and call on him for guidance.” – November 7, 2020 in a text message from Rhodes to a group of Oath Keepers.
— “I’m going on a killing spree.” Pelosi first. – Consecutive text messages on November 3, 2020 from Kelly Meggs in a family chat.
— “If you fail to do your duty, you will leave We the People no choice but to follow in the footsteps of the founders, declaring the regime illegitimate, incapable of representing us, destructive of the just ends of government – to secure our freedom.” And, like the founding generation, we will take up arms in defense of our God-given freedom.” – December 2020 open letter posted online by Rhodes to then-President Trump.
— “The proud boys got into a fight with the cops and took them inside to hide. They broke down the doors. One man made it to the floor of the house, another to Pelosi’s office. Good timing. We need to do this locally. Let’s storm the capitol in Ohio.” – Facebook message dated January 7, 2021 from Thomas Caldwell to Donovan Crowl, an Oath Keeper charged in a separate criminal case.
— “If we had guns, I guarantee you we would have killed 100 politicians. They ran out and took them through their underground tunnels like the rats they were.” – private message sent by Thomas Caldwell on January 6, 2021 to someone named Jonathan.
— “Show the world who the traitors are, and then use the (Insurrection Law) to bring the hammer down on them. And all the veterans who took that oath, until you’re 65, you can be summoned as the militia to support and defend the constitution… He needs to know from you, that you are with him, that if he does not do it now, while he is commander in chief, we are going to have to do it later, in a much more desperate war, much more bloodier. Let’s start now, while he’s still the commander-in-chief.” – Rhodes in a speech prior to the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol Hill.
— “We’ll have a lot of balls in the air. I’ve been very busy in side groups trying to advise the president.” – Stewart Rhodes in a December 2020 text on logistics before January 6 with a group of Oath Keepers.
— “Push, push, push! Get in there. They can’t hold us.” – Oath Keepers defendant Jessica Watkins speaking to other members of the group inside the Capitol on January 6, 2021 as they broke through a police line protecting the US Senate chamber.
— “I don’t believe in anything. I’m only here for the violence,” – written on a patch defendant Kelly Meggs wore on his shirt on the day of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
— “It really begins on January 5th and 6th in Washington DC when we mobilize in the streets. Let them try to certify some slop on Capitol Hill with a million or more patriots in the streets. This kettle is ready to boil.” – Defendant Thomas Caldwell, in a Facebook message on January 1, 2021.
— “We’re not going to get through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit,” Stewart Rhodes, in a November 5, 2020 text message to a group of Oath Keepers.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Alistair Bell)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.