Pro-Trump rioters breach the security perimeter and penetrate the U.S. Capitol to protest against the Electoral College vote count that would certify President-elect Joe Biden as the winner in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Two Oath Keepers, including founding member and leader Steward Rhodes, were found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their actions on and leading up to the U.S. Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
A federal jury in Washington D.C., reached a verdict on Rhodes and co-conspirator Kelly Meggs on Tuesday. Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge any Capitol rioter has faced so far. They were also found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their attempts to disrupt the transfer of power.
Three more Oath Keepers, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell, were found guilty on the lower charges of obstruction and aiding and abetting, but they were found not guilty of seditious conspiracy, according to a press release from the Justice Department.
Rhodes and Meggs face 20 years in prison for the seditious conspiracy conviction alone.
"Today the jury returned a verdict convicting all defendants of criminal conduct, including two Oath Keepers leaders for seditious conspiracy against the United States," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
"The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021. The prosecutors and agents on this case worked tirelessly, with extraordinary skill, and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice."
James Lee Bright, the attorney for Rhodes and the other defendants, said his clients will appeal the decision.
Government witnesses included former Oath Keepers and law enforcement officers who attempted to secure the Capitol on Jan. 6. The prosecution, with the corroboration of its witnesses, argued the Oath Keepers began conspiring to block the certification of the election and prevent President Joe Biden from being sworn in, maintaining power for former President Donald Trump.
The prosecution laid out evidence including phone messages, social media posts and recordings from meetings. The defense meanwhile attempted to portray the schemes of the Oath Keepers as talk from a loosely formed organization rather than a full-fledged conspiracy.
Earlier this month, Rhodes testified to a district court that the Oath Keepers inside the Capitol went "off mission" by entering the building.
"I didn't want them getting wrapped up into all the nonsense with Trump supporters," he said
Rhodes, 57, was allegedly in contact with the former president between his election loss and Jan. 6. In that time, prosecutors say he called on Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act with the intent of creating an armed militia to act on his behalf.
"It will be 1776 all over again," Rhodes allegedly wrote to fellow Oath Keepers leaders in a group message. "Force on force is the way to go."
Rhodes is not believed to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. Rather, he is alleged to have orchestrated on-ground activity from a nearby hotel room for a portion of the day. He testified that he went to the Capitol later in the day but could not get past the barricades.
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