Alexandria attorney defended now-convicted Oath Keepers’ founder
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KALB) - On Wednesday night, after a two-month-long trial, a federal jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs guilty of seditious conspiracy, which is the crime of conspiring with two or more people to overthrow the U.S. government, oppose its authority or block the execution of the law.
The case has a local connection, as one of Rhodes’ defense attorneys included Ed Tarpley, an Alexandria attorney who handles a variety of criminal cases, including those involving conspiracy, federal crimes and investigations.
In this case, the Department of Justice alleges the Oath Keepers conspired to block the peaceful transfer of power and plotted an attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, during the Congressional confirmation of the 2020 presidential election results.
It is a rare charge, one that has not delivered a successful conviction since 1995 in a case involving Islamic militants who plotted to bomb New York City landmarks.
“It’s a mixed bag. There are good results and bad results mixed together,” said Tarpley at a press conference following his client’s guilty verdict. “We’re grateful for the not guilty verdicts that were received. We’re disappointed in the guilty verdicts.”
In the trial, Rhodes and Meggs were facing charges alongside three other Oath Keepers, who were all found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but were convicted on other federal counts.
The government laid out a case of more than two dozen witnesses, including two Oath Keepers who had previously pleaded to charges of conspiracy and were cooperating with the government.
Additionally, according to an account of the trial by National Public Radio (NPR), prosecutors presented text messages, audio and video recordings of Rhodes and his co-defendants’ communications leading up to Jan. 6.
One piece of evidence the prosecution presented in the trial included a video of Oath Keepers at a Comfort Inn in Arlington County, Virginia, a group called a “quick reaction force,” heavily armed and on standby at the hotel on Jan. 6.
However, during the defense’s arguments, Tarpley and his co-counsel, Lee Bright, called a witness who testified that a quick reaction force is routine for Oath Keepers, saying that those on the ground in D.C. were providing security for pro-Trump speakers and VIPs.
They also pointed to testimony from the two Oath Keepers who were cooperating with the government, who said there was no plan to storm the Capitol, and Rhodes did not order them to enter the building.
“We feel like that we presented a case which showed, through evidence and some testimony, that Mr. Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy,” said Tarpley. “There was no evidence introduced to indicate that there was a plan to attack the Capitol.”
Rhodes also waived the Fifth Amendment and took the stand in his own defense.
“I would like to think that the testimony he offered waiving the Fifth Amendment and doing what he did help to humanize him from being the boogie man that he’s been painted as,” said Bright. “Um, whether it had that net effect, I don’t know.”
Meanwhile, the government maintained that while a concrete plan may not have been in place, the Oath Keepers had an understanding that they would do whatever they needed to stop President Joe Biden from taking office.
“I think the return and this, even though we’re not pleased with it, probably speaks to the fact that the DOJ is going to go full steam ahead in like-fashion on all the others,” said Bright.
Prosecutors said the Congressional certification of the election results at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was that opportunity.
“As the verdict of this case makes clear, the department will work tirelessly to hold accountable those responsible for crimes related to the attack on our democracy on January 6, 2021,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday.
Both Rhodes and Meggs could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
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