Oath Keepers leader to appear in court Friday on seditious conspiracy charges

Oath Keepers leader to appear in court Friday on seditious conspiracy charges


At some point, those defendants will have an arraignment for them to enter their plea to the new seditious conspiracy charge, but those proceedings have not been scheduled yet,

Rhodes — the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers — will appear before Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson in Plano, Texas, 2:30 pm CT on Friday.

Vallejo — who prosecutors accuse of transporting weapons and coordinating with Rhodes a so-called “quick reaction force” team for January 6 — will appear virtually in a Phoenix hearing at 12:30 pm MT, before Magistrate Judge Deborah Fine.

The hearings are what is known as a first appearance hearing, and it is not expected that the two defendants will enter their pleas. Instead, the hearings will concern their pretrial release and potential bail conditions.

It’s possible at the hearing the Justice Department argues forcefully for the men to be held in jail, as they had done with several others in the case already, and prosecutors could even show evidence to the court to convince the judges they could be dangerous

Those discussions may continue when their cases — as is expected — move to DC’s federal court, where the other January 6 prosecutions are proceeding.

Rhodes has previously denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors’ decision to bring the charge seditious conspiracy carries symbolic and political weight; the relevant statute dates back to the Civil War-era. But it is also a risk for prosecutors, as use of the charge in the past — most recently in a 2010 case concerning a militia plot in Michigan — has faltered under scrutiny from judges.

Booking photo of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.From Collin County, Texas

Attorney General Merrick Garland had been reluctant to bring the charge, CNN previously reported, but prosecutors in the latest indictment were able to show granular details of alleged planning and logistics coordination among the defendants in the lead up to the Capitol attack. Of particular note are the accusations in the new filings that Rhodes, Vallejo and other defendants continued plotting even after the riot to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.

Before the seditious conspiracy charge was brought, a central charge in DOJ’s Oath Keeper case was conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. US District Judge Amit Mehta recently rejected the request by several Oath Keeper defendants that he throw that charge out, and its use has been upheld by other judges presiding over separate January 6 cases.

Several Oath Keepers who do not currently face the seditious conspiracy charge brought by the DOJ Thursday face a conspiracy obstruction charge. That charge, as well as the seditious conspiracy charge, carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Even Perez, Hannah Rabinowitz and Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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