A jury has convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes of masterminding a plot to violently subvert the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, finding that he entered into a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. government.
The jury also convicted Rhodes ally Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida Oath Keepers, of seditious conspiracy. But the jury acquitted three co-defendants — Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell — of joining Rhodes in that conspiracy. All five, however, were convicted on additional felony charges, including obstruction of Congress.
Rhodes’ conviction is the most significant to emerge from the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when dozens of Oath Keepers joined the mob that stormed the building and chased Congress, as well as then-Vice President Mike Pence, into hiding.
Rhodes faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on the seditious conspiracy conviction. The other defendants also face 20-year maximum sentences for the obstruction conviction. The 12-juror panel deliberated for three full days before reaching its verdict. [Continue reading…]
Despite its liberal reputation, Yale Law School has produced a number of notable conservatives, including J.D. Vance, the Republican senator-elect from Ohio, who graduated in 2013, and Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, who was two years behind Mr. Rhodes. Even so, in the early 2000s, Mr. Rhodes was a distinctive presence on campus, whose experience reflected a gulf in social status and ideology separating him from many of his classmates.
“People find ways to distinguish themselves, either by fitting in or by standing out,” said Jon Michaels, a professor at the U.C.L.A. School of Law and former classmate. “And my sense of Rhodes is, he was standing out.”
Through one of his lawyers, Mr. Rhodes declined an interview request.
At Yale, Mr. Rhodes did not yet have his characteristic goatee and eye patch. He was clean-shaven, with a prosthetic eye, the result of a self-inflicted gun accident. He had unconventional opinions and could seem unusually focused on gun rights, former classmates said. Still, some remembered him as a well-intentioned peer who worked to find common ground despite being in the political minority.
The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, during his second week of law school, had a profound impact on him.
On the witness stand, Mr. Rhodes recalled being in a torts lecture when news of the attacks spread.
“A lot of my fellow students collapsed, and were just in heart-rending grief,” he said, adding, “And of course, after the grief came the anger.”
In classmates’ memories, and in Mr. Rhodes’s own telling, the attacks were a galvanizing moment that sharpened his political ideology. He grew increasingly alarmed by the expanded uses of surveillance and detention by the administration of President George W. Bush, which he saw as unconstitutional overreaches.
“You had the sense that he was sort of keeping his powder dry, for the most part,” said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “The times he would speak up, it was often about fears that the government was actually going too far and infringing on the rights of Americans.” [Continue reading…]