First major Jan. 6 indictments issue

A federal grand jury indicted 11 members of the Oath Keepers, a rightwing militia, including its leader on Wednesday, January 12, 2022.

The indictment, made public the following day, accuses the defendants of “seditious conspiracy” (read statute here).

This crime consists of planning, not acting, to overthrow the U.S. government or interfere with its authority.

The group participated in the Capitol riot, but adding these charges seems to signal prosecutors’ intent to seek longer sentences. If convicted of sedition, they could get 20 years.

The indictment is based on evidence of extensive planning among the Oath Keepers to disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election and keep Biden from taking office. The indictment references the defendants’ efforts to prevent, hinder, or delay “lawful transfer of presidential power by force.”

It cites advance planning, stockpiling of weapons, organization, and communications by and within the group in connection with its participation in the Capitol riot and subsequent scheming to prevent Biden’s inauguration. The group’s internal communications revealed their violent intentions. Stewart Rhodes, the leader, openly spoke of “civil war” to group members.

While many of the Capitol rioters acted individually and spontaneously, the Oath Keepers were an organized attacking force in the Capitol melee that injured dozens of police officers and sent members of Congress scrambling for cover. Guilt will be for juries to determine if the cases go to trial. The Department of Justice might be fishing for cooperation, and may dangle plea deals, if prosecutors are eyeing the possible involvement of Trump or other political figures in the insurrection.

However, if the conspiracy started and ended with the Oath Keepers, the indictment and prosecutions to follow represent an effort by federal law enforcers to punish the most dangerous Capitol rioters and deter future plots against Congress and presidential transitions by making the conspirators serve serious prison time. Read story here and analysis here.

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