Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the paramilitary group the Oath Keepers, has been charged for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots more than a year after the failed insurrection.
Rhodes, a 55-year-old Army veteran and former lawyer who founded the paramilitary group in 2016, was arrested on Thursday, his lawyer told The New York Times. The Thursday arrest comes after charges were filed against at least a dozen other Oath Keepers. Prosecutors allege the group was part of a wider conspiracy to recruit, train, and prepare for an attack on the Capitol.
Jonathan Moseley, his lawyer, told the Times that he was not yet aware of the charges against Rhodes—but noted that FBI agents took his client into custody on Thursday.
It also comes after Congress’ Jan. 6 committee investigating the riot issued subpoenas to Rhodes, along with ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and 1st Amendment Praetorian, a lower-level, far-right faction led by Robert Patrick Lewis.
The committee’s letter to Rhodes states, “You repeatedly suggested that the Oath Keepers should, or were prepared to, engage in violence to ensure their preferred election outcome.” It also quotes Rhodes calling on members of his group to “stock up on ammo” and gear up for a “full-on war in the streets.”
Federal authorities have described the Oath Keepers as “a large but loosely organized collection of [the] militia who believe that the federal government has been co-opted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights” and who heavily recruit former military, law enforcement, and first responders.
Other Oath Keepers charged in the conspiracy include Jessica Watkins, a 38-year-old former Army vet accused of recruiting members to “fight hand to hand” to take over the Capitol; Thomas Edward Caldwell, the 65-year-old apparent leader of the Oath Keepers; and Kelly Meggs, the self-described leader of the group’s Florida chapter.
The charges against Rhodes come after months of implicating the Oath Keeper leader in court documents describing him as “Person One.” In one Jan. 27 filing, prosecutors mentioned that “the Oath Keepers are led by Person One.” Prosecutors have also referred to statements made by Rhodes, attributing them to “Person One,” including a Jan. 4 recruiting letter that he signed.
Prosecutors have alleged that Rhodes not only had direct contact with members already accused in the plot to prevent Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s election win—but even warned there could be more violence after Jan. 6 if President Donald Trump didn’t step up.
While Rhodes has previously denied his involvement in the riots, he appeared to act as a link between the Oath Keepers and other far-right groups that would later participate in the attack.
At a December rally in D.C., Rhodes warned of “bloody war” if Trump did not invoke the Insurrection Act. In a video the night before the riot, Rhodes made a Facebook video with other far-right figures. Among them was the leader of a PAC that employs leaders of the Proud Boys, the leader of “Vets For Trump,” who is facing charges for allegedly bringing a gun to a Pennsylvania vote-count center, and Amanda Chase, a Virginia state senator who has previously appeared alongside Proud Boys at a gun rally.
Court filings detail that the Oath Keepers discussed plans in an encrypted chat group—titled “DC OP: Jan 6 21”—at least one day before the riots. The chat included Rhodes, Watkins, Meggs, and two other Oath Keepers charged for participating in the riots but not included in the group conspiracy: Roberto Minuta and Joshua James. (James is accused of providing protection to former Trump adviser Roger Stone before storming the Capitol.)
In the group chat, the Oath Keepers discussed what weapons to bring to the siege, that handheld radios would be used for constant communication, and that a calvary of weapons would be waiting outside the city in case of “worse-case scenarios.”
“Highly recommend a C or D cell flashlight if you have one,” Rhodes allegedly told members in the group chat, referring to heavy flashlights that can be swung like clubs. “Collapsible Batons are a grey area in the law. I bring one. But I’m willing to take that risk because I love em.”
During the siege, which forced dozens of lawmakers into hiding and ultimately killed five people, Rhodes texted the group that “Pence is doing nothing. As I predicted,” according to previous court filings.
“All I see Trump doing is complaining. I see no intent by him to do anything. So the patriots are taking it into their own hands. They’ve had enough,” Rhodes wrote 10 minutes later.
After the riot, Rhodes texted the group: “Leaders check to be sure you have all your team members. If anyone is missing, post here.” Hours later, he sent the group a rousing speech comparing their coordinated effort to that of revolutionaries during the Boston Tea Party.
“Patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming if Trump doesn’t take decisive action right now. It helped to send that message to HIM. He was the most important audience today. I hope he got the message,” he added.
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