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Rare U.S. Seditious Conspiracy Cases Have Produced Mixed Results

A judge in Texas has ordered that the founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group, Stewart Rhodes, remain in jail pending trial. Rhodes and 10 others are charged with seditious conspiracy for allegedly plotting to prevent by force the transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden, NPR reports. The bigger legal battle lies ahead as prosecutors seek to prove seditious conspiracy. That charge carries both symbolic and political weight. At root, it's alleging an attack on the country. It also pushes back against the notion, still popular among many supporters of former President Trump, that the deadly assault on the Capitol was little more than a rowdy protest. In the past four decades, the Justice Department has brought around a half dozen seditious conspiracy cases, with mixed results.

Federal code defines seditious conspiracy as two or more people conspiring to overthrow or destroy by force the U.S. government, or to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any U.S. law. The last time federal prosecutors pursued seditious conspiracy charges was in 2010 against members of the far-right Hutaree militia in Michigan. The government accused the Hutaree of plotting to kill police officers and then bomb the funerals to try to spark a civil war. The judge dismissed the case after finding that there was insufficient evidence of a conspiracy. As for the Capitol riot seditious conspiracy case, the indictment charges that defendants spent months after the election recruiting, training and conspiring to forcefully disrupt the certification of Biden's election win.


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