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Founder of far-right Oath Keepers to face seditious conspiracy charges

Oath Keepers militia founder Stewart Rhodes poses during an interview session in Eureka, Montana, U.S. June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

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PLANO, Texas, Jan 14 (Reuters) – The founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers group, Stewart Rhodes, is due in a federal court in Plano, Texas, on Friday to face seditious conspiracy charges for his alleged role in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Rhodes and 10 other associates or members of the group were accused by the Justice Department in an indictment unsealed on Thursday of plotting to storm the Capitol by force, in a failed bid to block Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Another Oath Keeper, Edward Vallejo, appeared in a Phoenix courtroom to face seditious conspiracy charges.

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Rhodes, 56, is the most high-profile defendant of more than 725 charged so far for allegedly taking part in the attack on the Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters. The riot was fueled by Trump’s false claims that his election defeat was the result of fraud.

The indictment also marks the first time that prosecutors have charged anyone in the attacks with seditious conspiracy, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers, which believes the federal government is encroaching on its rights. Its membership is largely made up of current and retired military and law enforcement officials.

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The indictment portrays Rhodes as a ringleader who warned his members to prepare for a “bloody and desperate fight” to prevent Democrat Joe Biden from becoming president.

It says he helped rally his members to go to Washington and played a key role in organizing and helping stage logistics for the group, including the establishment of so-called “quick reaction force” teams that stashed firearms outside the city limits.

The indictment also says Rhodes spent thousands of dollars stockpiling gear and weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, night vision goggles and ammunition.

An attorney for Rhodes said he was arrested by the FBI at his home in Granbury, Texas, on Thursday. He has not yet entered a plea in the charges.

He is due to appear in court at 2:30 P.M. CT (2030 GMT).

A judge scheduled a follow-up court hearing for Vallejo on Jan. 20 to determine whether the 63-year-old will be detained while he awaits trial. A lawyer for Vallejo indicated he planned to enter a not guilty plea at a future hearing.

A prosecutor said during Friday’s hearing that the Justice Department will request pretrial detention for Vallejo — a strong indication that the government will also request pretrial detention for Rhodes.

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Reporting by Bruce Castor in Plano, Texas, and Jan Wolfe in Boston, additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Source: Reuters

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