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Stewart Rhodes found guilty in seditious conspiracy trial

Since the Jan. 6 attack, we’ve seen hundreds of criminal suspects face a variety of charges. Stewart Rhodes’ sedition trial is qualitatively different.


In the nearly two years since the Jan. 6 attack, Americans have seen hundreds of criminal suspects face a variety of charges related to the assault on the Capitol. Some of the accused have been convicted of felonies and begun lengthy prison sentences.

But as we’ve discussed, the seditious conspiracy trial is a qualitatively different kind of case. With this in mind, it’s dramatic to see a jury in Washington this afternoon find Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty. NBC News reported:

A federal jury in Washington found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes was on trial alongside Jessica Watkins, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell; Caldwell was the only one of the five who was not detained while awaiting trial.

The breakdown of the charges and verdicts is a little complex, since not every defendant was facing an identical set of charges. From NBC News’ report:

All five defendants faced felony counts of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their duties. Watkins also faced a count of civil disorder and aiding and abetting because, as she admitted on the stand, she helped push against officers inside the Capitol.

Each of the defendants were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on Jan. 6. Meggs joined Rhodes in being convicted of seditious conspiracy.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, part of what made this case striking was the seriousness of the details: Prosecutors have alleged that Rhodes and his confederates conspired to use force to stop the peaceful transfer of power. To that end, they not only breached the Capitol, they also stashed a significant number of weapons just outside of D.C. in preparation for an escalated offensive.

As Rachel recently noted on the show, there’s also a historical dimension to this: Rhodes’ case is the largest sedition trial in the United States since the aftermath of World War II. Charges like these are incredibly uncommon — Americans rarely try to overthrow their own government — and hard to prove.

In the cases against Rhodes and Meggs, prosecutors succeeded anyway.

There was, oddly enough, broad agreement about the basic details during the trial. We know what Rhodes and his allies did, and the defense attorneys didn’t make much of an effort to contest the revelations.

Instead, the lawyers focused on intent, arguing that the Oath Keepers founder believed that then-President Donald Trump might invoke the Insurrection Act, which in turn would’ve extended legal protections to the right-wing activists, effectively deputizing them as his armed militia.

Trump, we now know, did not invoke the Insurrection Act. And while Rhodes and his cohorts weren’t the first Americans to face sedition charges, they were the first to ever argue as part a legal defense that they expected the White House to legitimize their alleged crimes.

As of today, we know that didn't work.