Stuart Rhodes is accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 attack on the US Capitol last year.
The founder of the far-right Oath Watchers has pleaded not guilty to inflammatory conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the deadly attack on the United States Capitol last year.
Wearing handcuffs and a leg iron, Stewart Rhodes appeared in federal court in Plano, Texas, on Friday in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
Rhodes, 56, is the most prominent of the more than 725 accused to date for allegedly participating in the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC.
A mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol that day shortly after the former Republican president delivered an incendiary speech that reiterated his false allegations that the 2020 US election was marred by widespread fraud.
The attorney general said at Friday’s hearing that the US Department of Justice will request that Rhodes be detained pending trial.
James Lee Bright, Rhodes’ attorney, told reporters that his client intends to face the charges.
“He believes he will be found not guilty,” Bright said, adding that Rhodes would oppose the government’s request for pre-trial detention. “He has no reason to flee. He has no passport,” Bright said.
Rhodes was indicted earlier this week along with more than a dozen other members and associates of the Oath Keepers, who authorities say came to Washington, D.C., intent on stopping President Joe Biden’s election victory.
The indictment portrayed Rhodes as a gang leader who warned his members not to prepare for a “desperate bloody battle” to prevent Biden from becoming president.
Prosecutors said that as of late December 2020, Rhodes used private encrypted communications to plan travel to the US capital on January 6, 2021. They said he and others planned to bring weapons into the area to help support the operation.
“While some members of the Oath Keepers and its affiliates breached the Capitol buildings and building, others remained stationed outside the city in rapid response force (QRF) teams,” the Department of Justice said in a statement Thursday.
“According to the indictment, the QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transfer firearms and other weapons to Washington, D.C., in support of operations intended to use force to halt the legal transfer of presidential authority.”
The indictment also said Rhodes spent thousands of dollars stockpiling equipment and weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, night vision goggles and ammunition.
The Oath Keepers focuses on the recruitment of current and former police, emergency services and military personnel. The far-right group believes that the federal government is encroaching on its rights.