Five members of the far-right Oath Keepers group, including Thomas Caldwell, began their trial on Monday, accused of inciting an armed insurrection during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Five members of the far-right Oath Keepers group, including its founder, began their trial on Monday, accused of inciting an armed insurrection during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The trial of founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, is the most high-profile legal proceeding related to the riot thus far.
"They concocted a plan for an armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy," assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nestler said during opening arguments.
Rhodes, Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs, along with group members Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell all face a charge of seditious conspiracy while plotting to obstruct Congress' certification of the 2020 presidential election results in support of former President Donald Trump.
The charge is the strongest legal accusation yet to stem from the riot.
Nestler and his prosecutorial team have described Rhodes as acting "like a general" as hundreds of people breached the U.S. Capitol building.
Rhodes and his fellow defendants are arguing that they prepared and acted in anticipation of Trump invoking the Insurrection Act, a Revolutionary-era law that grants the president wide powers to deploy the military to quash unrest in emergency situations.
Rhodes, a graduate of Yale Law School, also stockpiled weapons just outside of Washington, D.C., to prepare for the possibility of a more violent uprising, Nestler said during Monday's opening.
Rhodes and his allies say they had been girding for the possibility that Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act as part of a bid to remain in power, a decision they contend could have permitted them to act as a government-sanctioned militia.
"They were ready to react at President Trump's request," Rhodes' lawyer Phillip Linder said in his opening address.
"You're going to find out that it's different than what the government has told you," Linder added.
Linder argued the group was in Washington to provide security for speakers at pro-Trump rallies protesting the former president's defeat.
Rhodes is expected to testify at some point in his own defense during the trial.