A jury trial begins this week for five members of the far-right group Oath Keepers militia, including its founder Stewart Rhodes, in a test for prosecutors to hold those accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rhodes will go to trial in Washington, D.C., along with four Oath Keepers associates on charges including seditious conspiracy, the most serious crime leveled by the Justice Department involving the Capitol breach, the Wall Street Journal reports. The trial before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta could last more than a month. Rhodes and co-defendants, Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell are accused of plotting to block Congress from certifying President Biden’s election victory. According to prosecutors, members of the Oath Keepers entered the Capitol as a team in “stack formation,” a single-file military tactic, and some of them clashed with law enforcement. Rhodes didn’t enter the Capitol that day but was seen in video footage huddling with other members outside after the riot. The defendants have said they used bombastic language but didn’t have a real plan for any violence. Instead, they asserted that they went to Washington to help with security and logistics for a President Trump rally before the rioting. The defense also hinges on the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows a president to deploy troops inside the country. Days before Jan. 6, some of Trump’s allies urged him to invoke that law and unleash the military to help keep him in office. The defendants have said that they brought gear and weapons because they believed Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act. For that reason, they lacked the required criminal intent for seditious conspiracy. “What the Government contends was a conspiracy to oppose United States laws was actually lobbying and preparation for the President to utilize a United States law to take lawful action,” Rhodes lawyers Phillip Linder and James Bright argued in a court filing. Prosecutors have said that the defendants are using the Insurrection Act as legal cover. To win a conviction, jurors must be convinced that “the object of the conspiracy was agreed upon and not simply bravado discussed colloquially,” said Jay Town, a former U.S. Attorney In Alabama. The group, founded by Rhodes in 2009, has sought recruits with military or law-enforcement backgrounds. It says its members are loyal to the U.S. Constitution rather than to any government leader.
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