- Lawyers for Elmer Stewart Rhodes failed to convince a judge that he should be released before trial.
- A judge said Rhodes posed a “clear danger” and noted the Oath Keepers founder’s organization skills.
- Rhodes was among the first charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol attack.
A federal judge on Friday refused to release from jail Elmer Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, as he awaits trial on some of the most serious charges stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Rhodes has remained behind bars since his arrest last month on a seditious conspiracy charge and other criminal claims connected to the January 6 insurrection. A magistrate judge in Texas ordered him shortly after his arrest, but Rhodes appealed that ruling to Judge Amit Mehta, who is presiding over the Oath Keepers’ prosecution in Washington, DC.
Mehta on Friday noted that prosecutors have accused Rhodes of overseeing a wide-ranging plot that included an “arsenal” of firearms stored in a hotel room outside Washington, DC. The indictment, he said, alleged “sophisticated and conscious planning” and showed that the Oath Keepers had the “intention to use that arsenal.”
“If the conduct alleged is true, the danger that it poses cannot be understated,” Mehta said.
Later, Mehta said Rhodes posed a “clear danger” and that there were no conditions of release for the Oath Keepers leader that would ensure the public’s safety.
A Yale University-educated military veteran, Rhodes was charged along with 10 other Oath Keepers with secretious conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. His indictment marked a significant development in the ongoing investigation into the January 6 attack, an inquiry that has given rise to more than 700 criminal prosecutions.
At a court hearing earlier in the week, prosecutor Kathryn Rakoczy said Rhodes would pose a “grave” danger if released, and she stressed that the alleged conspiracy involved a
of weapons — kept in a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia — and plans to violently disrupt Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results.
The alleged indictment that Rhodes helped organize so-called “quick reaction forces” that were on standby to come to Washington on his order. Rhodes’ defense lawyers said he never gave that order and asserted that the group believed they could use the firearms if then-President Donald Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to respond to groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Rakoczy said Rhodes and fellow members of the Oath Keepers hoped for Trump to join them in preventing a peaceful handoff of power, but they were poised to carry out their plot regardless of his involvement.
In a message over the encrypted Signal app, Rhodes said Trump “must know that if he fails to act, we will. He has to understand that we have no choice.”
Rakoczy read the message aloud in court and said the Oath Keepers’ plan extended beyond January 6.
“This was one battle in a larger war,” she said.
Mehta stressed that Rhodes has First Amendment but that his words went beyond free speech.
“If anyone thinks this is about speech,” he said, “they are mistaken.”