Oath Keepers leader to appear in court Friday on seditious conspiracy charges

The Justice Department on Thursday unveiled its case against Stewart Rhodes and Edward Vallejo, who were arrested Thursday in Texas and Arizona, respectively.
Court filings released Thursday also added the charge to the case already facing nine other defendants for their alleged involvement in the riots that disrupted Congress’ ratification of President Joe Biden’s Jan. 6 victory.

At some point, these defendants will have been summoned to file their petition in the new seditious conspiracy charge, but the date for these proceedings has not yet been set,

Rhodes – the leader of the far-right oath of war – will appear before Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson in Plano, Texas, at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Vallejo – who is accused by prosecutors of transporting weapons and coordinating with Rhodes in a so-called “rapid reaction force” team on Jan. 6 – will actually appear at the Phoenix hearing at 12:30 p.m. GMT, before Judge Deborah Fine.

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Hearings are what is known as a first appearance hearing, and the defendants are not expected to make their arguments. Instead, the hearings will relate to their pre-trial release and possible bail conditions.

It is possible at the hearing that the Department of Justice could argue forcefully to put the men in prison, as they have already done with several other people in the case, and prosecutors could present evidence to court to convince judges that they might be dangerous.

Those discussions may continue when their cases – as expected – move to the capital’s federal court, where the other Jan. 6 trials are taking place.

Rhodes has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The prosecution’s decision on charges of plotting to sedition has symbolic and political weight. The relevant law dates back to the Civil War era. But it also presents a danger to prosecutors, as use of the charge in the past — most recently in a 2010 case of a Michigan militia plot — has faltered under scrutiny by judges.

Reservation photo of Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes of Collin County, Texas

CNN previously reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland was reluctant to press charges, but prosecutors in the latest indictment were able to show meticulous details of the alleged planning and logistical coordination between the defendants in the lead up to the Capitol attack. Of particular note are the accusations in the new affidavits that Rhodes, Vallejo and other defendants continued to plan even after the riots to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Prior to the sedition charge, the central charge in the Department of Justice’s Oath Keeper case was conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. US District Judge Amit Mehta recently denied several defendants’ request that Oath Keeper cast the charge, and other judges upheld its use in separate cases on January 6.

Several of the department’s guards who are not currently facing a seditious conspiracy charge, which the Justice Department filed Thursday, face a charge of obstructing the plot. This charge, in addition to the conspiracy charge, carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Four of the defendants in the trials of the Department of Justice department guards are known to be cooperating with the government.

CNN’s Catelyn Polantz, Evin Perez, Hana Rabinovich, and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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