Elmer Stewart Rhodes, founder of the right-wing militia known as Guardians of the oath, was arrested and charged with rebel conspiracy for his role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, reports Ministry of Justice.
The Columbia County Grand Jury on Wednesday accused Mr Rhodes and 10 other members of the group of forming a conspiracy “to oppose the lawful transfer of power by force by preventing, obstructing or forcibly suspending the enforcement of the laws governing the transfer of power”, which is expected to happen at the expiration of the previous president Donald Trump‘s mandate on January 20th.
According to the indictment, Mr Rhodes and his conspirators allegedly “coordinated trips around the country” to Washington DC, where members of the Oath Keepers “equipped themselves with various weapons, put on combat and tactical equipment” and prepared for an attack on the US Capitol. to prevent Congress from confirming President Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
He further claims that just two days after the presidential election on November 3, 2020, Mr. Rhodes began organizing the worst attack on the Capitol since it was burned by British troops in 1814 via an encrypted messaging app.
On November 7, the day most news organizations announced Mr Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, Mr Rhodes allegedly told members of the coded “leadership information chat” that they must “refuse” to accept Mr Biden’s victory and “march en – Mass at the National Capitol ”.
The indictment also alleges that the Oath Keepers conducted surveys and stored firearms for “quick reaction” that would be brought to the Capitol if necessary.
Mr Rhodes is also accused of illegally entering restricted areas of the Capitol area and directing members of the oath while attacking police officers and breaking into the building itself. He and his co-conspirators are also expected to continue the “conspiracy … to forcefully oppose the lawful transfer of presidential power” even after Congress on the morning of January 7 confirmed Mr. Biden’s victory.
A conspiracy is a crime set out in a little-used part of the United States Code that requires “two or more people” to cooperate in order to “overthrow, overthrow, or forcibly destroy the United States government or impose war on them.” or by force to oppose their authority, or by force to prevent, obstruct or suspend the execution of any United States law, or to seize, seize or possess any property of the United States by force contrary to its authority ”.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.
The allegations against Mr Rhodes and his accused co-conspirators are the most serious, against anyone allegedly involved in the events of 6 January, and show that the Ministry of Justice has made efforts to bring those ultimately responsible for violence that day. liable by law.
Many prominent Democrats and legal experts have complained that the Justice Department has not aggressively prosecuted anyone involved in the Jan. 6 attack, except those accused of entering the Capitol or attacking police officers.
Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland quietly responded to those criticisms in comments made on the anniversary of the attack.
“The Ministry of Justice remains committed to holding all perpetrators accountable by law on January 6 – at any level – regardless of whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the attack. about our democracy, ”he said. “We will take into account the facts wherever they lead.”
Members of an elected House of Representatives committee investigating the attack said a nine-member commission could issue criminal referrals from senior Trump administration officials – including Mr Trump himself – if he discovers crimes during the investigation.
Wyoming Vice President Liz Cheney said last month that the commission especially hopes to address the “key issue” of whether “Mr. Trump” is corrupt by acting or failing to act. [sought] obstruct or obstruct the official congressional procedure for counting electoral votes ”.
Ms Cheney’s remarks were a clear reference to the part of the US Code that illegally “corrupts official proceedings”.
While Mr Garland did not say whether the Department of Justice would take action on any such referral, he told department staff last week that the U.S. “cannot” have “different rules for the strong and powerless.”
“There is only one rule: we follow the facts and enforce the law in a way that respects the constitution and protects civil liberties … and we adhere to these norms, even when and especially when the circumstances we are facing are not normal,” he said. is.