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Trial begins for Oath Keeper founder Rhodes, four others, in DOJ's high-profile Jan. 6 case

Defendants are the first people in over 10 years to face federal charges of seditious conspiracy.

Published: September 27, 2022 8:40am

Updated: September 27, 2022 9:15am

The trial of Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and four others begins Tuesday with jury selection – in what is largely considered the Justice Department's most high-profile case in its investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The case is among the most closely watched in the sweeping probe, considering evidence reportedly shows the far-right militia group helped organize and carryout the riot.

In addition, Rhodes and co-defendants Thomas Caldwell, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson and Jessica Watkins are the first people in over 10 years to face federal charges of seditious conspiracy under a Civil War-era statute that is rarely prosecuted, according to Reuters.

A conviction of the charge carries maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Seditious conspiracy is defined as two or more people plotting "to overthrow, put down or to destroy by force the government of the United States."

The indictment against the five Oath Keeper defendants alleges they plotted to use force to oppose the peaceful transfer of power from then-President Trump to incoming then-incoming President Biden.

The defendants also face charges of conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging duties and conspiring to obstruct and obstructing an official proceeding, that latter of which carries up to 20 years in prison.

Watkins, Meggs and Harrelson entered the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, and are also charged with property destruction.

Watkins separately faces a civil disorder charge, while the other four are each charged with tampering for allegedly trying to destroy evidence, Reuters also reports.

Prosecutors say Rhodes led and coordinated the alleged plot.

Jury selection is expected to last several days. 

The trail is being held in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, with Judge Amit Mehta presiding. The trail is expected to last for as many as six weeks.

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