Jury of seated oath keepers; opening statements from Monday

A 12-member jury and four alternates was selected on Thursday in the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other members of the extremist group who face seditious conspiracy and other charges in the attack on the 6 January 2021 against the US Capitol. Opening statements are scheduled for Monday.

A three-day scrutiny revealed a political and cultural clash that posed tests for both the Justice Department — led by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington — and defense attorneys for the leaders of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing anti-government movement. recruits members ready to prepare for a possible battle to prevent Federal tyranny.

Rhodes and four co-defendants — Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell – pleaded not guilty to felony charges, including conspiring for weeks after the 2020 presidential election to instigate political violence to prevent the president from being sworn in Biden, who rioted as Congress convened to confirm the results.

The defendants came from Texas, Florida, Ohio and Virginia and allegedly led a group that drove to Washington, staged guns nearby and forced their way in through the gates from the Capitol Rotunda after climbing the steps in single file wearing combat and tactical gear and oath-keeper insignia.

Rhodes and his co-defendants said their actions were defensive, taken in anticipation of what they believe was a legal order from President Donald Trump deputizing armed groups under the Insurgency Act to prevent Biden from becoming president. .

In the end, more than half of the Washington jury of nine men and seven women who will try Rhodes is made up of attorneys or federal government employees and contractors whose authority defendants are charged with conspiring to the strength to oppose.

The composition of the jury presents a decisive reality check for the radical “insurgent doctrine” of Rhodes, who argues that the constitutional right to bear arms extends not only to the “militia” or the National Guard, but to the private citizens, and further that individuals have the right to violently oppose the government for personal or subjective reasons, said extremism expert Brian Levin.

These anti-government conspiracy theorists lived “in their own echo chamber” in the past, such as in confrontations over federal land regulations in the West, Levin said. But their movement grew and transformed under Trump, moving from simply advocating gun ownership, to opposing coronavirus restrictions, to the country’s changing racial demographics, and finally to denial. to accept Biden’s electoral victory.

“We have this cauldron of grievances and – with January 6 – paramilitary groups that answer to no one with legal authority. It’s an inflection point that we’ve really been almost in the dark about,” said Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hatred and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino. “The violent, premeditated, and engineered parts of this attack on our Capitol are one of the most toxic byproducts of the conspiratorial and violent politics we find ourselves in today.”

The jurors include many ordinary Americans familiar with law, politics and government, including employees of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Government Accountability Office, as well as defense contractor Northrop Grumman and the consulting giant Deloitte. Jurors include a risk analyst, patent and administrative attorneys, and a litigation consultant for major banks.

“Is there a tax credit or something for lawyers who live here or something?” Baltimore defense attorney for Caldwell, David W. Fischer Sr., joked in a lighthearted moment Thursday. “Is it compulsory for everyone to attend a demonstration?”

The remark was in response to the group of 150 members of the jury’s responses to one of several questions aimed at eliminating political bias in the trial. It turns out that many Washingtonians have been attending protests recently, especially the 2017 Women’s March and the recent rallies after the Supreme Court’s landmark abortion rights ruling on return. Roe vs. Wade, judging by the responses in court. None said they attended Trump’s post-election rallies, falsely claiming massive voter fraud.

About a quarter of potential jurors interviewed were excused, including some who said they understood the oath keepers were racist, were ‘preparers for the end of the world’ or had given themselves up to violence in the Capitol. Some have expressed beliefs hostile to Trump supporters, such as a man who “liked” a book review comparing aspects of the Make America Great Again movement to Nazi Germany.

“Would the fact that one or more defendants are supporters of President Trump affect your ability to be fair and impartial?” U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta repeatedly asked jurors in various ways. “Would you have any problems setting aside what you may have heard if there was no evidence in this trial that the defendants were violent?”

Oath Keepers sedition trial may reveal new information about January 6 plot

The judge also asked if would-be panelists would have trouble being fair knowing that some defendants lawfully brought and stashed firearms in their Northern Virginia hotels, or that one or more may have had contact with longtime Trump political confidant Roger Stone.

“Could you promise both parties that you will be fair and impartial?” Fischer asked for defendants.

The trial is the first of three seditious conspiracy trials to be held this fall accusing members of the Oath Keepers and a second far-right group, the Proud Boys, of conspiring to use force to oppose the legal transition of power in attacking Congress.

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