Jury deliberations begin in Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial

By Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

A Washington, DC jury will begin deliberations on Tuesday in the criminal trial of five alleged leaders of the right-wing Oath Keepers militia charged with seditious conspiracy.

The Justice Department alleges the five defendants conspired to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from President Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

The jury, made up of seven men and five women, will consider a total of ten counts against defendants Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell, including three separate counts of conspiracy, obstruction of electoral college voting and tampering with evidence.

All five pleaded not guilty. If convicted of the most serious charges, each defendant could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

“The case is finally yours, after all these weeks,” District Judge Amit Mehta told the jury Monday at the end of the two-month presentation of evidence.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors weaved together messages, videos, testimony and recordings to show how defendants across the country allegedly came together to plan and execute a way to keep Trump as president by any means possible. required.

“For these defendants, the attack on the Capitol was a means to an end,” said prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy, adding that the defendants had “self-anointed themselves to defend their version of the law, their version of what should have happened in this election.

Rakoczy continued, “The sense of entitlement that led to frustration, followed by rage and then violence. This is the story of this conspiracy, ladies and gentlemen.

Rejecting arguments brought by the defense, Rakoczy told jurors that despite claims there was no explicit order to enter the Capitol that day, there was a clear plot to stop the ascendancy of Biden by all means.

Lawyers for the defendants repeatedly told the jury that no government witnesses — including former members of the Oath Keepers present on Jan. 6 — could testify that there was a direct plan to attack the Capitol.

“Call it the big three,” said Rhodes lawyer James Lee Bright. “No plan to storm the Capitol…no plan to breach the Rotunda…no plan to stop certification or delay voter certification.”

Others were more blunt, including Watkins attorney Jonathan Crisp, who told jurors the government lied to them, calling the lawsuit a “production of Michael Bay.”

In a final rebuke, lead prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler called on jurors to view the defendants, most of whom are military veterans, as traitors to the country they claim to protect.

“They claimed to be oath keepers, they didn’t live up to that belief,” Nestler said. “They pretended to wrap themselves in the Constitution, but they trampled on it instead. They pretended to save the republic, but they fractured it instead.

“These five people, ladies and gentlemen, believed themselves to be above the law. No one is. Now it is your solemn job to try these people who have agreed to commit sedition against the United States of America. .. we ask you to respect the Constitution which they tried to avoid,” he concluded.

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