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Judge orders Oath Keepers leader detained pending trail, calling him a public danger

Supporters of President Donald Trump riot against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, 2021, in protest of Trump's loss to President-elect Joe Biden, prompting a lockdown of the Capitol Building. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the right-wing militia Oath Keepers, to remain behind bars as he awaits trial on sedition charges in connection to the Jan. 6, 2020, siege of the Capitol building.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson ordered Rhodes detained at the request of the government, stating he is a threat to the public.

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"Defendant's authoritative role in the conspiracy, access to substantial weaponry and ability to finance any future insurrection, combined with his continued advocacy for violence against the federal government, gives rise to a credible threat that the defendant's release might endanger others by fostering the planning and execution of additional violent events," she wrote in the order.

She continued that his "technical savvy, military training and familiarity with encrypted communications" further requires his detention as well as "there is some evidence of a propensity towards violence in defendant's personal relationships."

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Johnson's order was issued a day after Rhodes, 56, and nine other Oath Keepers members entered not guilty pleas to charges of seditious conspiracy.

The Justice Department indicted 11 Oath Keepers members earlier this month for plotting to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power on Jan. 6, 2020, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in a failed effort to prevent congress from certifying Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States.

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Federal prosecutors said the Oath Keepers recruited members to their conspiracy, organized training on paramilitary combat tactics and were armed with knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and radio equipment when they breached the Capitol on Jan. 6.

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"They coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear and were prepared to answer Rhodes' call to take up arms at Rhodes' direction," the indictment states.

"Some co-conspirators also amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., 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," it said.

Jonathon Moseley, Rhodes' attorney, told the court on Tuesday that the claims against his client were "totally false."

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In her order Wednesday, Johnson said the weight of the evidence against Rhodes "is strong."

Rhodes was arrested Jan. 13 in Little Elm, Texas.

The Oath Keepers grew in prominence during the anti-lockdown protests of 2020, and is described by the Anti-Defamation League as a loosely organized militia of right-wing anti-government extremists who believe "the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights."

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Five people were killed, some 140 law enforcement injured and $1.5 million in damages sustained to the Capitol during the insurrection attempt of Jan. 6, 2020.

The Justice Department has charged more than 725 defendants in connection to the siege.

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