Oath Keepers trial to resume with testimony from fresh witnesses

As hearings from the January 6th US Capitol riots continue, right-wing extremist group Oath Keepers has more evidence stacked them.

 A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021.  (photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)
A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021.
(photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

Prosecutors are expected to call fresh witnesses on Thursday as they argue their case in the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four co-defendants for their alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol.

During the first two days of testimony, FBI Special Agent Michael Palian read to the court text messages showing the defendants planning to go to Washington and preparing for violence, as they vowed to reject Joe Biden as the winner over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

"We aren't getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit," Rhodes said in one message to members of the far-right group that was shown to the court.

"Trump has one last chance, right now, to stand. But he will need us and our rifles too," Rhodes, a Yale-educated attorney and former US Army paratrooper, said in another message.

Rhodes and four others, Thomas Caldwell, Kenneth Harrelson, Kelly Meggs and Jessica Watkins, are accused of plotting to prevent Congress from certifying the election victory of Biden, a Democrat, in a failed bid to keep Trump, a Republican, in power.

 Committee Chairperson Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Vice Chair US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) walk to attend a public hearing of the US House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U (credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ) Committee Chairperson Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Vice Chair US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) walk to attend a public hearing of the US House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U (credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ)

Some of the defendants are among the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 after the former president falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him through widespread fraud, prosecutors say.

What are the defendants charged with?

The five defendants are charged with several felonies including seditious conspiracy, a Civil War-era statute that is rarely prosecuted and carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors have said the defendants trained and planned for Jan. 6 by stockpiling weapons outside the capital at a northern Virginia hotel for a "quick reaction force" that would be ready if called upon to transport arms into Washington.

Attorneys for the defendants have said the evidence will show that the defendants did nothing illegal and that the Oath Keepers are simply a peace-keeping group that has done security work at events around the country in recent years.

The prosecution had yet to finish re-direct examination of Palian, the government's first witness, by the end of Tuesday's session. The court did not sit on Wednesday in observance of Yom Kippur.