Nov. 29, 2022, 4:47 PM EST / Updated Nov. 29, 2022, 5:55 PM ESTBy Ryan J. Reilly and Daniel Barnes
WASHINGTON — A federal jury in Washington on Tuesday found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodesand Kelly Meggs, another member of the far-right organization, guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a victory for the government in a case that involved a rarely-used Civil War era statute.
Three other members of the group who were on trial alongside Rhodes and Meggs — Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty on the seditious conspiracy charge. All five defendants were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on Jan. 6.
The seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Rhodes' lawyer said Tuesday that he plans to appeal that conviction.
The seditious conspiracy case is the most serious to grow out of the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the U.S. Capitol attack. The two seditious conspiracy verdicts were wins for the department, which has brought forward the relatively rare charges against a number of Oath Keepers as well as members of the far-right Proud Boys.
The not guilty verdicts for three of the defendants could be seen as a sign that jurors did not think the Justice Department proved that Harrelson, Watkins, and Caldwell had planned ahead of time to storm the Capitol. Some of the most violent rhetoric presented by the government during the nearly two-month trial came from the two defendants who were found guilty of seditious conspiracy: Rhodes and Meggs. In evidence presented by the government, both men showed particular disdain for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked about their desire to do her violence.
All three defendants who physically went inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 — Meggs, Harrelson, and Watkins — were found guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their official duties. Rhodes and Caldwell were on Capitol grounds that day but did not go inside the building.
Watkins was also found guilty on a count of civil disorder and aiding and abetting because, as she admitted on the stand, she helped push against officers inside the Capitol. Caldwell, who was also found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings and aiding and abetting, was the only one of the five who was not detained while awaiting trial.