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Prosecutor: Oath Keepers saw Jan. 6 as ‘first battle’ in war

Violent rioters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. Opening statements are anticipated to start Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, within the second seditious conspiracy trial towards members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group charged within the Jan. 6, Capitol assault. The defendants going through jurors within the newest trial are Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, and Edward Vallejo.

  • Violent rioters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, in the second seditious conspiracy trial against members of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group charged in the Jan. 6, Capitol attack. The defendants facing jurors in the latest trial are Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, and Edward Vallejo.
  • Members of the Oath Keepers extremist group stand on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday, Dec. 12, 2022, in the second seditious conspiracy trial against members of the far-right Oath Keepers charged in the Jan. 6, Capitol attack. The defendants facing jurors in the latest trial are Joseph Hackett, Roberto Minuta, David Moerschel, and Edward Vallejo.

WASHINGTON (AP) — 4 Oath Keepers charged with plotting to cease the switch of presidential energy from Donald Trump to Joe Biden accepted an “invitation to sedition” issued by the far-right extremist group’s founder, a federal prosecutor mentioned Monday initially of a second trial for group leaders and members.

Jurors heard opening statements two weeks after a distinct jury convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter chief Kelly Meggs of seditious conspiracy and different fees stemming from a mob’s assault on the U.S, Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

You are reading: Prosecutor: Oath Keepers saw Jan. 6 as ‘first battle’ in war

Rhodes is jailed awaiting sentencing and wasn’t in court docket on Monday, however a prosecutor repeatedly introduced up his identify. Assistant U.S. Legal professional Troy Edwards mentioned Rhodes issued a “name to motion” earlier than his followers carried out a violent plot to cease Congress from certifying Biden’s electoral victory.

“This was an invite to sedition,” the prosecutor mentioned.

The defendants within the newest trial are Joseph Hackett of Sarasota, Florida; Roberto Minuta of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel of Punta Gorda, Florida; and Edward Vallejo of Phoenix. They’re charged with a number of different felonies along with seditious conspiracy.

Their attorneys’ opening statements typically echoed arguments that Oath Keepers’ attorneys made on the first trial. Specifically, they mentioned group members by no means had a plan to assault the Capitol or cease Congress from certifying the Electoral Faculty vote.

Moerschel’s lawyer, Scott Weinberg, accused prosecutors of “overpromising and underdelivering.” The lawyer mentioned many Oath Keepers members had been aged, out-of-shape males who had been “taking part in army“ and vulnerable to bluster of their on-line chats.

“These gents used Twitter fingers, not set off fingers,” Weinberg informed jurors, paraphrasing lyrics by the Canadian rapper Drake.

Jurors are anticipated to listen to testimony from prosecutors’ first witness on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Oath Keepers members stashed weapons at a resort in Virginia for a “fast response power” that would shuttle weapons into Washington, D.C., on Rhodes’ order. On Jan. 6, two teams of Oath Keepers stormed the Capitol after 1000’s of different rioters breached the constructing. The weapons stashed on the resort had been by no means deployed.

Rhodes and different Oath Keepers considered the Jan. 6 assault because the “road combating part” and “simply the primary battle in a struggle,“ Edwards mentioned.

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Defendant Hackett’s lawyer, Angela Halim, mentioned the Oath Keepers got here to Washington to not assault however to offer safety particulars at a “Cease the Steal” rally the place Trump addressed a crowd of his supporters.

“At no level did anybody say that they had been going to assault the Capitol,” Halim informed jurors. “There was no unity of function.”

The protection lawyer accused prosecutors of presenting a “warped model” of the defendants’ actions.

“There was a rush to judgment,” Halim mentioned.

Hackett, Moerschel and different Oath Keepers approached the Capitol in a military-style stack formation earlier than they entered the constructing, in accordance with prosecutors. Minuta and his group from a second stack of Oath Keepers clashed with police after heeding Rhodes’ name to race to the Capitol, Edwards mentioned.

Minuta was a New York chief for Rhodes and believed the Oath Keepers had been “a part of a revolution,” in accordance with Edwards. The prosecutor mentioned Minuta was “full of rage concerning the election” that Trump, the Republican incumbent, falsely claimed was stolen from him.

Hackett repeatedly warned different Oath Keepers about “leaks” and the necessity to safe their communications earlier than Jan. 6, in accordance with Edwards. Moerschel was “cautious together with his phrases however intentional in his actions,” the prosecutor mentioned.

Vallejo, a U.S. Military veteran and Rhodes ally, drove from Arizona to organize with the “QRF” — the fast response power — on the resort exterior Washington. Jurors heard an audio recording of Vallejo speaking a couple of “declaration of a guerilla struggle” on the morning of Jan. 6.

The 4 defendants “perverted the constitutional order” and conspired to “impose their views of the Structure, their views of America, on the remainder of the nation,” Edwards mentioned.

“That day, these defendants halted the peaceable switch of presidential energy,” he mentioned.

Whereas the convictions of Rhodes and Meggs had been a significant victory for the Justice Division, three of their co-defendants had been acquitted of seditious conspiracy. The query for the second trial is whether or not prosecutors will probably be persuade jurors to convict lower-level defendants.

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Seditious conspiracy, a Civil Warfare-era offense, might be troublesome to show, particularly when the alleged plot is unsuccessful. Rhodes and Meggs had been the primary folks in a long time discovered responsible at trial of the cost, which carries as much as 20 years in jail.

Thomas Caldwell, of Berryville Virginia; Jessica Watkins of Woodstock, Ohio, and Kenneth Harrelson of Titusville, Florida, had been acquitted of sedition within the first case. However all 5 defendants in that case had been convicted of obstructing Congress’ certification of Biden’s win, a conviction that requires as many as 20 years behind bars.

In Rhodes’ case, prosecutors spent weeks arguing the Oath Keepers weren’t whipped into an impulsive frenzy by Trump on Jan. 6 however got here to Washington intent on holding him in energy in any respect prices. Authorities say the Oath Keepers mentioned their plans in encrypted chats for weeks earlier than the riot and stashed the weapons in case they had been wanted to help their plot.

However whereas investigators combed by way of 1000’s of messages despatched by Rhodes and his co-defendants, none particularly spelled out a plan to assault the Capitol itself. Protection attorneys emphasised that truth all through the trial to argue there was by no means any plot. They mentioned the Oath Keepers didn’t come to Washington for violence however to offer safety for folks like Trump ally Roger Stone at occasions earlier than the riot.

Three different Oath Keepers have pleaded responsible to seditious conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with investigators within the hopes of getting lighter sentences. However they had been by no means known as by prosecutors to the witness stand in Rhodes’ case. It’s unclear whether or not they may take the stand within the newest trial.

One other sedition trial can also be anticipated to start later this month towards former Proud Boys nationwide chairman Enrique Tarrio and different leaders of that extremist group.

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Richer reported from Boston.

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Observe AP’s protection of the Capitol riot at: https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege

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