Elmer Stewart Rhodes took the stand Friday in federal court docket as he sought to defend himself and his far-right Oath Keepers group from accusations that they dedicated seditious conspiracy for his or her function within the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol assault.
Rhodes and 4 others concerned with the group ― Jessica Watkins, Thomas Caldwell, Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson ― are going through probably the most critical prices levied up to now within the Justice Department’s huge effort to prosecute these concerned within the lethal incident.
From the stand, Rhodes positioned himself as a historical past buff who as soon as labored for then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), as a navy veteran and as a Yale-educated constitutional regulation professional, reporters at the courthouse said. Some of his beliefs, nonetheless, usually are not grounded in truth, reminiscent of the concept the 2020 presidential election was unconstitutional as a result of states had modified the foundations round voting, Law & Crime reported. The guidelines had been modified to make it safer to vote within the coronavirus pandemic.
Jurors had spent 5 weeks being led by prosecutors by means of the Oath Keepers’ alleged efforts to cease Joe Biden from changing into president. Dozens of textual content messages and testimony from different members of the group painted an image of an extremist coalition that was gearing up for probably important violence.
Jason Dolan, a former Oath Keeper, testified that he was ready to “conquer or die” to maintain then-President Donald Trump in energy, CNN reported. He had critically contemplated how he would say goodbye to his household earlier than going to the Capitol on Jan. 6. While each Dolan and former member Graydon Young mentioned they didn’t consider there was a selected plan to breach the Capitol that day, they mentioned everybody had an understanding that they had been going “to do something” to cease Congress from doing its constitutional obligation to certify the outcomes of the 2020 election, The Washington Post reported. Oath Keepers had stockpiled firearms simply exterior the bounds of Washington, D.C. ― so many who one member testified he had not seen such a amount of weapons since his time within the navy, per CNN.
On Friday, nonetheless, Rhodes tried to melt the picture of the group.
He reportedly appeared pleasant and smiling, changing into emotional at factors when he talked about the suicide rate amongst U.S. navy veterans. The Oath Keepers, he claimed, according to reporters at the courthouse, gave veterans a way of goal and supplied pure catastrophe reduction.
The group attracts its identify from the oath that members of the navy take to defend the Constitution, and members declare they are going to refuse to obey any “order” that they deem “unconstitutional.” The Southern Poverty Law Center says they’re consumed by “baseless conspiracy theories” in regards to the federal authorities.
Rhodes’ testimony was reduce brief by the court docket’s abbreviated Friday schedule, and is predicted to renew subsequent week.