Speed Reads

Capitol Siege Aftermath

Jury convicts Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs of seditious conspiracy in landmark Jan. 6 verdict

A federal jury in Washington, D.C., found Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and a deputy, Kelly Meggs, guilty of seditious conspiracy and other felonies Tuesday for plotting to use force to stop President Biden from taking office. The convictions were a major victory for the Justice Department in its sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. 

Rhodes, 56, and Meggs, 53, are the first Jan. 6 defendants convicted of seditious conspiracy by a jury, although at least three Oath Keepers and one Proud Boy have pleaded guilty to the rarely used Civil War-era crime. The verdicts, reached after a nine-week trial and three days of jury deliberation, also mark the first time a jury has found that the Jan. 6 violence was the product of an organized conspiracy, The New York Times notes

The jury acquitted three other defendants in the trial — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell — of seditious conspiracy but convicted them on various lesser felony charges.

All five defendants could spend decades in jail — Rhodes faces a maximum sentence of 60 years, 20 of them for seditious conspiracy; Meggs faces 86 years; Watkins, 56 years; Harrelson, 46 years; and Caldwell, 40 years — when U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentences them on a to-be-determined date. Their actual sentences will almost certainly be much shorter, and lawyers for Rhodes and other defendants said they will appeal the verdicts.

The Justice Department has now "secured felony convictions against all 19 Jan. 6 defendants who have gone to trial on felony counts," The Washington Post reports. About 450 of the roughly 900 people charged in the Jan. 6 siege have pleaded guilty, and there could be "scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests" still to come, the Times reports.

Tuesday's jury verdict "confirms" that the Jan. 6 attack "was a planned, organized, violent assault on the lawful authority of the U.S. government and the peaceful transfer of power," former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason tells the Post. "Now the only remaining question is how much higher did those plans go, and who else might be held criminally responsible." Five other Oath Keepers and, separately, the leaders of the Proud Boys are going on trial in December on seditious conspiracy charges.