On January 6, a historic trial for the Oath Keepers leader and his senior lieutenants will start.

For the first time in more than ten years, the Justice Department will make its case in court this week that a group of Americans planned to violently overthrow the US government.

A comprehensive look at a far-right militia and extremist movement will be offered by the historic trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four of his top lieutenants, who are accused of plotting to use any means necessary to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president in January 2021.

The plan, according to federal prosecutors, involved a reconnaissance trip to Washington, DC, setting up an armed “quick reaction force” at a hotel across the Potomac River, employing a military formation to breach the US Capitol, and, for certain defendants, looking for lawmakers inside.

The historic indictment signaled a significant shift in the department’s strategy for pursuing the January 6 defendants as it is the aggressive and contentious case that prosecutors have launched against a group of alleged rioters to date.

The first of three sedition trials slated for this year is currently underway.

The case has significant political repercussions as well. When the indictment was made public in January 2022, some Trump backers and right-wing leaders expressed outrage, claiming that the charges were untrue or politically motivated. Since then, the Justice Department as a whole has come under increased criticism from some on the political right for its investigations into people who were close to the former president.

On Tuesday, a jury will be chosen in the federal court in Washington, DC, to begin the trial against the Oath Keepers.

The maximum term for the five defendants, who have all entered not guilty pleas to the charges, is 20 years in a federal prison.

the accusers

Former Army paratrooper Stewart Rhodes, 57, is a Yale Law School alum. Texas native Rhodes created the Oath Keepers in 2009 and has been in charge of the militia ever since.

The president of the Oath Keepers chapter in Florida is 53-year-old Kelly Meggs. Meggs was known as “Gator 1.”

Army veteran and Ohio bar owner Jessica Watkins, 40, is from the state. Watkins, an Afghan war veteran, functioned as the “commander” of her own militia located in Ohio under the alias “Cap.”

Oath Keepers leader and former Army sergeant Kenneth Harrelson, 41, is from Florida. Harrelson went by the name “Gator 6.”

A former FBI employee and lieutenant commander in the Navy, Thomas Caldwell, 68, hails from Virginia. Caldwell used the handles “CAG” and “Spy.” He has disputed that he belongs to the Oath Keepers.

It is the

Prosecutors will provide a detailed account of January 6 and the months before to the disturbance in order to present their case. Prosecutors testified in court that the tale will rely on more than 40 witnesses, including FBI agents, Capitol Police officers, journalists, and secretive human sources.

They also intend to use walkie-talkie communications during the siege and recordings of the group’s preparatory discussions prior to January 6.

Prosecutors are confident that the evidence will show a complex Oath Keepers strategy that started to take shape just days after the 2020 election.

We aren’t getting through this without civil war, Rhodes allegedly warned the Oath Keepers in a Signal letter from November 5, 2020. It’s already too late. Prepare your body, soul, and mind. According to court records, Caldwell made a reconnaissance trip to Washington less than a week later and returned to Rhodes with his findings.

Prosecutors claim that Rhodes, Meggs, Watkins, Harrelson, and Caldwell worked together for several weeks, visiting paramilitary training camps and booking rooms at a hotel in Virginia to store weapons and other items in case they were required in Washington.

The Oath Keepers allegedly stationed themselves around the nation’s capital on January 6 while donning battle and tactical gear, with some in the Capitol, others serving as security, and a third group standing by in Virginia with a stash of weapons.

Prosecutors assert that Rhodes directed the group to congregate at the Capitol that afternoon. In a military-style “stack” formation with fellow Oath Keepers, Meggs, Harrelson, and Watkins pushed past police officers and entered the building, according to court filings. Prosecutors allege that Meggs, Harrelson, and other Oath Keepers split off to look for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Watkins attempted to force past security patrolling the hallway leading to the Senate Chamber.

According to the prosecution, Rhodes led the group from a distance. Additionally, Caldwell is not said to have gone inside the structure.

According to court records, after the brawl, Rhodes and several others went to Olive Garden to “celebrate the attack” and “discuss next steps.” On January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day, Rhodes allegedly instructed friends to form neighborhood militias to oppose the Biden administration.

The five defendants’ attorneys have asserted that the Oath Keepers came to Washington to serve as “peacekeepers” in the event that rioting broke out between Trump backers and Antifa. According to defense attorneys, some lawmakers helped police officers inside the Capitol.

America’s extreme right

Though it is unclear how the trial will affect the Oath Keepers’ future, analysts agree that the prosecution alone has had a negative impact on the group.

“The media, the public, and then the legal accountability that’s been brought down at Oath Keepers has had incredibly detrimental effects that organization and quite frankly, has nearly decimated it,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center who studies extremism, to CNN.

Rivas claimed that because the group lacked a strong leadership structure, Rhodes’ performance determined the organization’s fate. Since Rhodes’ arrest in January, he has been held in federal detention, and Rivas stated that “removing him from the ability to be a leader in that organization, it has had a huge impact.”

Whatever the outcome of the case, domestic extremism continues to pose a serious threat to the US, Jon Lewis, a research scholar at the George Washington University’s department on extremism, said CNN.

Lewis stated that “the threat today has spread far beyond individual groups.” “The nature of the threat today is the same whether the Oath Keepers live or die.”

“I believe that what’s even more worrying from our standpoint is that the rhetoric that motivated them and the stories they promoted haven’t vanished. Lewis stated that hatred “has only grown stronger.”

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