Two Texans Charged with Sedition in Capitol Siege
11 Oath Keepers members are accused of conspiring to oppose the transfer of presidential power by force.
A federal court in Washington on Thursday unsealed charges of seditious conspiracy against 11 defendants, including two Texans, the first such charges brought in connection with the breach at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Although federal agents have arrested more than 700 people in connection with the events at the Capitol last year, most have faced lesser charges such as unauthorized entry into a federal building or assaulting a federal officer.
Sedition, by contrast, is an accusation of conspiring with a group of people to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force” the U.S. government. It’s a crime that’s been on the law books since the Civil war, but has rarely been invoked. It carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Federal agents Thursday morning arrested the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, 56, in Little Elm, Texas. They also arrested Edward Vallejo, 63, in Phoenix, Arizona, and added sedition charges to nine defendants previously arrested on lesser charges, including Roberto Minuta, 47, of Prosper, Texas.
The 48-page indictment accuses the 11 defendants “plot to oppose by force the 2020 lawful transfer of presidential power,” including by preventing Certification of the Electoral College vote, which was happening at the Capitol on January 6.
The conspirators “coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, DC, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear…amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, DC, distributed them among ‘quick reaction force’ teams, and planned to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
Numerous encrypted Signal message are cited as evidence in the indictment, and it’s unclear how federal investigators gained access to those records.
The indictment goes on to say that on the afternoon of January 6, the Oath Keepers worked in two groups (“Stack One” and “Stack Two”) to get inside the Capitol. The first joined the crowd in front of the Capitol, assaulted federal officers, and forced their way inside.
“Once inside the Capitol, Stack One entered the Rotunda and then split up. Half of Stack One tried to push their way through a line of law enforcement officers guarding a hallway that led to the Senate Chamber. Law enforcement officers forcibly repelled their advance.”
“The participants in this half of Stack One regrouped in the Rotunda and then left the building. The other half of Stack One headed toward the House of Representatives, in search of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They did not find Speaker Pelosi and ultimately left the building.”
The second group (“Stack Two”) entered the Capitol from another entrance and forced their way past law enforcement officers trying to guard the rotunda. Other armed groups of Oath Keepers remained outside the city with as “quick reaction force” teams that were “prepared ot transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, DC, in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
In a news release, the U.S. Justice Department described the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely-organized collection of individuals” with a focus on recruiting current and former military members and law enforcement officers.
Rhodes, the leader of the group, lives in Granbury, Texas. He is a former U.S. Army paratrooper, a Yale Law School graduate and a former staffer for Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).