Federal authorities on Thursday charged Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the extremist far-right Oath Keepers militia, and 10 other people with seditious conspiracy and other crimes for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
An indictment alleges that after the November 2020 presidential election, Rhodes and others conspired to oppose by force the transfer of presidential power from then-President Donald Trump to Joe Biden, which included plans to breach and try to take control of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The conspiracy allegedly involved the amassing of firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C, and distribution to so-called quick reaction force teams to support the effort to keep Trump in office.
The indictment is based in part on access to encrypted messages on the Signal app that federal authorities obtained access to.
Rhodes, a 56-year-old Granbury, Texas, resident, was arrested early Thursday afternoon.
Rhodes is known to have been outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan., 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the complex and breached its buildings in an effort to disrupt an ongoing session of Congress confirming the election of Biden.
A lawyer for Rhodes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Also indicted was Edward Vallejo, 63, of Phoenix, Arizona, who was arrested Thursday morning in in that city, authorities said.
Neither Rhodes nor Vallejo had been previously charged in connect with the riot.
Nine others who had been previously charged in connection with the riot also were indicted Thursday, according to authorities.
They are: Thomas Caldwell, 67, of Berryville, Virginia; Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Florida; Kenneth Harrelson, 41, of Titusville, Florida; Joshua James, 34, of Arab, Alabama; Kelly Meggs, 52, of Dunnellon, Florida; Roberto Minuta, 37, of Prosper, Texas; David Moerschel, 44, of Punta Gorda, Florida; Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia and Jessica Watkins, 39, of Woodstock, Ohio.
James and Minuta have reportedly acted as bodyguards for Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative and confidant of Trump.
The charge of seditious conspiracy carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
An indictment charges that Rhodes and certain co-conspirators, “to included selected regional leaders, planned to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power by January 20, 2021, which included multiple ways to deploy force.”
“They coordinated travel across the country to enter Washington, D.C., equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and technical gear, and were prepared to answer Rhodes’s call to take up arms at Rhodes’s direction,” the indictment says.
“Some co-conspirators also amassed firearms on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., distributed them among ‘quick reaction force’ (‘QRF’) teams, and planned to use the firearms in support of their plot to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
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